Bedrooms and Hallways

Bedrooms and Hallways is a feather-light romantic comedy of considerable charm. On the surface it sings the paeans of pansexuality, but its real sexual energy is in the male/male romances, so while there is sufficient amusement for audiences of all persuasions, as a date movie, this one is for the gay male market.

Leo (Kevin McKidd) is a cabinet-maker who is cute enough to get picked up on any street corner in London, but, no, he remains unhappily unattached. He joins a "new-man" support group where he is presumably the only homosexual, a group facilitated by Keith (Simon Callow). The men’s group and Callow provide the broadest satire in the film, from the overwrought interiors of Keith’s home to "spontaneous rebirthing," to indulging in a Wild Man camping weekend where no food is brought along. They will eat only what they can find in the woods, evoking the hunter-gatherer roots of manhood. The ultimate ordering of take-out is predictable, but worth a giggle nonetheless.

Leo is drawn to fellow new-man Brendan (James Purefoy) who, in turn, is falling out of a seven year relationship with Sally (Jennifer Ehle). The sexual merry-go-round starts spinning: Will boy get boy? Will girl get boy? Which boy? It is the quintessential setup for romantic comedy, spiced with the millennial variation of gender interplay. The film goes so far as to raise some interesting questions – questions about commitment and sexual identity – but it frothily refrains from any attempt to probe the questions it raises. Rather, it somewhat busily follows a rather schematic exploration of the sexual permutations, where a more free-flowing plot-line might have resulted in a more original, and perhaps more substantive, comedy achievement. Leo’s heterosexual endeavor in the last quarter of the film is key to the goings on, and, unfortunately, is not convincing for a moment.

Still, there are plenty of funny bits peppered about and the cast is appealing and quick with the lines. Callow is rather limited by the satirical stereotyping of his role, but he has it down to a T – the smarmy, ultrasupportive fountain of new age wisdom. Tom Hollander, as Leo’s flat-mate, Darren, makes the token flamboyant queen role his own, transcending an incident or two of superfluous overwriting. Julie Graham, as Angie, Leo and Darren’s hair colorist buddy, gets just the right indignant tone into: "You’re a strawberry blond. You can’t go out with an ash blond. It’s not right." McKidd, Purefoy, and Ehle are all quite fine, oozing good looks, charm, and sexiness.

Rose Troche, the director, finds the right pacing for the material, though a little more discipline in cutting some of the unnecessary chaff out of the script would have made for a stronger film. Troche has an eye for detail, catching moments of truth with flashing insight. There is a scene with Leo and Brendan cuddled together, both wondering if more will happen, neither quite sure enough to make a move. All of that is conveyed with their eyes – each seeking the other, each turning away just too soon, missing the contact. The desire, the insecurity, the frustration all register nonverbally. That’s good acting, but it’s excellent directing.

Arthur Lazere

San Francisco ,
Mr. Lazere founded in 1998 and worked tirelessly to promote its potential as a means for communicating a distinctly personal yet wide-ranging selection of arts reviews. Under his leadership, the site grew in esteem as well as in “circulation", and is well-regarded nationally and internationally as a source for up-to-date, well-written criticism. Arthur passed away on September 30, 2006.