Dear gays born after 1990: Longtime Companion is on Netflix Instant, so please click there now, watch this seminal 1989 mainstream film for the first time, and wonder why it wasn’t taught to you in high school. Seriously, you probably watched Glory and Schindler’s List (which is fiiiiine), but this week’s Best Movie Ever? candidate Longtime Companion is a pretty great tool for teaching you about other historical essentials such as:
1) The first decade of the AIDS crisis, which could be missing from your social studies textbook
2) Credible camaraderie among LGBT characters on film
3) The flyness of oversized khakis, the hotness of Campbell Scott and Dermot Mulroney, and the scorching, red-hot melodrama of ’80s soap operas
World AIDS Day is on December 1st. In time for that, let’s review five reasons this rewatchable, but devastating film about how a group of gay friends are changed by the AIDS epidemic must be seen today. I’ll start with the fluffier reasons and work my way to the film’s greatest merits.
1. Heeeeeyy, this Oscar-ready film is chockablock with male hotness.
Longtime Companion follows the same group of gay friends (and their unforgettable gal pal Lisa, played by Mary-Louise Parker) on nine different dates in nine different years of the 1980s. It begins in Fire Island on July 3, 1981, when the dudes discover a small article in The New York Times about the rise of a new “gay cancer” in New York and California. The dumbfounded group finds ways to chalk up the rising death toll to more common problems like drug use, even if the enigma haunts all of them. As the years progress and some of the members of the group and their loved ones succumb to the disease, the awareness of AIDS evolves just as each well-realized character does too.
Despite what you may have heard, this film isn’t really over-the-top in any way. It’s unpretentious, and at times heartstopping. Maybe it seems impossible that we’d ever gawk like horny mouthbreathers at how hot some of these dudes are, but honestly, it’s not that tough. A lot of Longtime Companion is about sadness and coping — after all, the title is a reference to how obituaries of AIDS victims obliquely referred to surviving lovers — but the movie is actually about credible people with lives and jobs and character. They’re real-seeming, I’d say. Therefore, their very real gay hotness prevails.
Get a load of a young Dermot Mulroney in that blue tanktop and shades. That Colgate campaign of a grin. That aerodynamic stream of hair. Perhaps his overt sexiness is only matched by the film’s main gay character Willy, played by Damages‘ third-season superstar Campbell Scott. He’s giving you Tobey Maguire sensitivity over a Paul Ryan bone structure, and you come to love him even during his routine moments of steely detachment. Thanks, gents!
2. This is a gay media event that has a lot to say about gays in media events.
One of the main gays is a fun fellow named Sean (Mark Lamos), a screenwriter who works on the QUITE DRAMATIC soap opera Other People. The show hires another happenin’ gay named Howard (Patrick Cassidy) to join the series’ cast, and soon his character becomes the first out-of-the-closet character on daytime TV. Nervy! While later complications arise with Howard’s part on the show, I’m totally in love with the scene in which the gays (and Mary-Louise Parker) watch his characters’ big reveal. They snicker at the melodrama, hoot at the male-on-male kiss, and generally clutch their faces in terror at the unbearably ridiculous moments. It’s a modern approach to television viewing, and it turns out to be a scene that transcends time pretty effortlessly.