A year after The Boys in the Band (1970) broke ground with its serious exploration of gay culture, representing a change from previous films in which homosexual characters were coded and/or marginalized, the low-budget ensemble piece Some of My Best Friends Are . . . explored similar terrain—with similar difficulty. Whereas The Boys in the Band was adapted from a well-regarded play and filmed by a promising new director (William Friedkin), Some of My Best Friends Are . . . was a screen original from first-time writer-director Mervyn Nelson, who only made one subsequent picture. His inexperience shows in every frame. The disparity in their technical polish aside, the films have interesting parallels. Some members of the LGBTQ community deride The Boys in the Band for over-the-top characterizations and a generalized theme of self-loathing, as if being gay is a curse. Some of My Best Friends Are . . . now plays gay film festivals somewhat regularly as a camp classic. Which is to say that if the folks behind either picture aspired to get early ’70s gay culture “right,” they were not fully successful—one project struck viewers as too heavy, and the other struck viewers as too silly. Seen today, The Boys in the Band is frustrating but intense and sharp, whereas Some of My Best Friends Are . . . is a bit of a mess.
Set on New Year’s Eve in the Blue Jay Bar, a gay nightclub in Manhattan, the film tracks several gay men and their straight friends. In one poignant storyline, a nervous waiter named Phil (Nick De Noia) awaits the arrival of his blind date, Tim (Dick O’Neill), who believes Phil is a woman, since they’ve only met by phone. That storyline conveys something touching about the risks gay men in the early ’70s took when reaching outside their social circles for potential romantic partners, but De Noia’s cartoony performance diminishes the pathos. Far less interesting are scenes involving European ski instructor Michel (Uva Harden), who delivers this florid line in dubious English: “Facing death does not take courage—but two men making a life together does!” Again, right idea, wrong tone. And so it goes throughout the movie, which, incidentally, features three future TV stars. Gil Gerard, later to become Buck Rockers, plays a gay man who presents straight; Rue McLanahan, pre-Golden Girls, incarnates a clichéd “fag hag”; and Gary Sandy, a few years away from WKRP in Cincinatti, plays a hustler who experiences a major drug freakout. The other notable in the cast is Warhol-associated drag queen Candy Darling, who, no surprise, portrays a drag queen.
Some of My Best Friends Are . . . : FUNKY