Romantic comedies, or rom-com for short, have been a staple of cinema for longer than I can remember. When LGBTQ cinema came into being much of the content dealt with issues such as the trauma of coming out, acceptance, and later the AIDS epidemic. While such movies were important in their day, it was inevitable that rom-coms would find their way into movies for the LGBTQ audience. While many of them rely on the same formula as we have seen in more “mainstream” cinema, a great way to make a movie to stand out from the rest is to add a unique element. Such is the case with Out of Body.
Henry is a successful photographer who loves Halloween. He’s hosting a party for some of his closest friends, including Gina, who had gone to a séance a week earlier and brought an orb. Also at this party is Malcolm, Henry’s best friend from college, and unbeknownst to Malcolm, has been in love with him for years. All goes well until Malcolm grabs the orb and shakes it vigorously which makes the orb turn from the color blue to red (“Red is the color of the recently deceased,” so says psychic medium Pat who conducted the séance that Gina had previously attended). As the party ends, in a sudden moment of bravery, Henry kisses Malcolm. Henry’s attention is diverted when there is a sudden knock on the door and when he returns Malcolm is passed out on Henry’s sofa. The next morning Henry gets up to find Malcolm gone, only from Malcolm’s perspective he’s still there and Henry appears to be ignoring him.
As independent movies go, this one doesn’t have much in terms of production values. Then again, it doesn’t need it. What it does have are probably the two most important elements necessary, story and stars. This movie is written by best-selling author Suzanne Brockmann and Jason T. Gaffney, who in addition to directing and starring in this movie (as Henry) also happens to be Suzanne’s son. Brockmann’s writing experience gave her the added edge to introduce the unexpected horror element that would force the two main characters to look at each other with a newfound honesty that hasn’t been explored with LGBTQ rom-coms. Then there are the stars. Gaffney as Henry and Kevin Held as Malcolm are by no means newcomers to LGBTQ movies, nor with each other. Their previous outing in the movie Analysis Paralysis was another brilliantly unique rom-com that showed what amazing chemistry these two actors have with each other (they also happen to be close friends) so it made perfect sense to have these two act together again (especially since Brockmann wrote the story with these two gents in mind). Not only do they work well together on screen, these two are extremely talented actors individually. Both of them have very strong comedic timing and they also are highly skilled in the art of subtlety. Numerous times throughout the movie they each have a scene where relying on the most subtle of acting techniques is called upon and they each excel at it. From being able to talk on a phone and sound like you’re having a real phone conversation (which is apparently VERY hard to do for most actors) to showing genuine, heartbreaking sadness, both Gaffney and Held prove that many times one can find superior talent working in independent projects than in big studio productions. They each get to flex their comedy muscles in scenes that had me laughing out loud in all of the right ways, from Gaffney trying to do a walk that was designed to attract his character’s hot neighbor, to Held jumping (literally) from Irish Step Dancing to mime work that was hilarious!
If I have one misgiving it is how the movie ended. While it does deliver a “happily ever after” the book had an epilogue that was both amusing and romantic. While the epilogue’s “gimmick” is touched upon earlier in the movie (as also in the book), I found the book’s epilogue to serve as the perfect ending giving the happily ever after an even stronger emphasis on the “ever after.” However, the way the movie ends is good in its own right and will probably satisfy anyone who has never read the book. Other than that, Out of Body is the kind of LGBTQ movie that must be seen. It does not deal with the social trauma of coming out or acceptance. Instead, it tells of a time and place where being a man in love with another man is perfectly acceptable (which it is and as it should be everywhere), and that people in the LGBTQ community have to deal with many of the same issues as pretty much everyone else does, even when one of them is having an Out of Body experience!
For having an original story with some wonderful acting, I give Out of Body 4.5 out of 5 Orbs!
Out of Body will be having its premiere as the Opening Night Feature this Friday, September 11, 2020, as part of the Palm Springs LGBTQ Film Festival.