Over the last few months we've been charting the journey of the upcoming Adam Sandler gay marriage comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry as it makes its way to screens (it opens July 20th). Given the relative silence of the studio, the tone of the trailers (which consisted of Sandler and co-star Kevin James hitting each other and talking about being "big-time fruits") and strange early press appearances (a 30-minute stint on The Showbiz Show in which the stars didn't say a single word about the movie), we have been concerned with how the film could portray gay relationships and gay life. In a worst-case scenario, this could be just another comedy that uses gays as cannon fodder, which is certainly nothing new. In a best-case scenario, it could be a good film with positive messages that is simply a tricky sell to its core fanbase.
Recently we were able to spend a few minutes with Damon Romine, Entertainment Media Director for GLAAD, who spoke exclusively with AfterElton.com regarding Chuck and Larry and what the film might mean in the big picture.
AfterElton.com: We understand that GLAAD has seen the final cut of the film. What are GLAAD's thoughts?
Damon Romine: This is a big-budget, studio film with Adam Sandler that runs true to his comedic style. His comedies have tremendous appeal to a broad audience. This is a film that will be enjoyed by Adam Sandler fans, and it's a comedy that sends a message to this audience about the importance of family, marriage equality, and about treating others, gay or straight, with dignity and respect.
The fact is, comedy has a unique way of opening people's eyes and helping them connect to simple truths. And part of what makes Chuck & Larry interesting is the way it could help straight audiences understand the experiences of gay couples and question how anyone could continue to support laws that put them in harm’s way.
When you look at films like Talladega Nights or Adam Sandler's Big Daddy, these were also comedies that delivered a supportive, inclusive message to a very broad audience. And this movie will reach that audience as well.
AE: Are the gay elements being used as plot devices for a straight love story, or does some overarching message compensate for this?
DR: This is a buddy comedy about two men, their friendship and the lengths to which they go to protect their family.
Through the disarming use of comedy, there is an exploration of homophobia, which often involves stereotypes and slurs, and it holds a mirror up to that and asks people to consider where it comes from. I can't imagine a studio movie being made five years ago that even dealt with marriage equality and the discrimination that same-sex couples face on a daily basis in this country.
AE: Have you seen the film? Did the studio invite GLAAD to screen it, specifically? Were you asked for feedback or input?
DR: Both Universal and Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison, asked GLAAD to see the film, and we sat for two different test screenings with audiences in attendance.
We worked with them as we work with many television and film projects, be it All My Children or the teen show South of Nowhere. GLAAD acts as a media resource to encourage fair, accurate and inclusive representations of LGBT people. On a daily basis we're reading scripts, viewing rough cuts, pitching stories and advising writers and producers about their LGBT content in an effort to change hearts and minds one story at a time.
At the end of the day, TV and film production is a creative process and they are going to make the movies they want to make. But when the studios ask for GLAAD's input, there is an interest in better representing LGBT lives.
Sandler and Universal were certainly interested in getting our reaction and hearing our comments. Throughout our meetings with Sandler, he expressed that his intent is to reach his audience with a message of equality. He has a gay family member in a long-term relationship, and is interested in telling a story that touches on discrimination faced by same-sex couples.
We shared our impressions of the film and were then invited back for a second test screening after they made some tweaks. Our impression of watching the audience at the screening is that they seemed to be laughing in the appropriate places and going on the journey the filmmakers intended them to take.
AE: It's becoming apparent that the studio is not speaking with gay press on the film, as we've experienced and as was recently noted in The Advocate. Have they come to you to help interface with gay viewers or with the gay press?
DR: You'd want to ask Universal about their overall marketing plans. What I've heard is that their focus is television press and that Adam Sandler and Kevin James are planning to sit down with CBS News on Logo to promote the film.
AE: Does GLAAD consider the lack of coordination between the film and Outfest (given the scheduling snafu) as anything more than unfortunate oversight?
DR: No, I agree with Outfest's Stephen Gutwillig that these simply are not competing events.
AE: To this point the response to the advertisements and press appearances has been fairly negative. Does GLAAD have comments about the ads?
DR: GLAAD offered Universal feedback on their trailers. We can’t speak to the final creative choices that the studio made in its marketing of the movie, but what's important to keep in mind is that what may appear one way in a thirty-second commercial is not necessarily how it’s seen in the context of a two-hour film.
AE: Are the ads accurately representative of the film as a whole?
DR: A trailer is designed to get you into the theater. It doesn't tell the complete story, nor is it supposed to. There is a difference between the marketing of the film and the actual film itself. Having seen the final product, Adam Sandler's audience will be left with a message that stresses the importance of family and equality for everyone.
A big thanks to Damon and GLAAD for sharing their thoughts, which are certainly reassuring. We'll be providing more coverage in the days leading up to the premiere, so be sure to stay tuned.