We just finished crying through the film "Red, White & Royal Blue." But Ray and I cried not because it was a sad movie. It’s an exhilarating one. We cried because it was so perfectly done, and we’re not used to seeing our lives presented so lovingly. We’ve waited a long time for such a film.
The handsome, bisexual, Latino son, Taylor Zakhar Perez, of the U.S. President and the gay Prince of England, Nicholas Galitzine, fall in love and deal with the challenges in pursuing romance and being a couple. The actors were perfect. Every glance, smile, kiss, and touch were believable and charming.
The movie isn’t going to be nominated for an Oscar, and it’s not in the caliber of "Brokeback Mountain," the film that deserved but was denied the Oscar for Best Picture in 2006. (Sorry, can’t let go of that one.) But it’s true to the book, and it’s lots of fun.
I remember the first positive gay-themed movie I saw, and how excited I was. "A Very Natural Thing" came out in 1974, soon after I came out and lost my job as a columnist and reporter at The Michigan Catholic. It was a beautifully-told story of a gay young man who leaves the priesthood in search of love. It was the first commercially-released film made by a gay man.
In the theater I noticed a row of seminarians in front of me. The next day, I was to speak at St. John’s Seminary about being gay and Catholic. I told my story and when I asked for questions the room was dead silent. “I don’t get it,” I said. “Last night I saw a whole row of you watching the film about the gay priest who leaves in search of love. Why aren’t you talking?”
In response, the faculty got up and left the room, so the seminarians could talk freely. But even then, only a few made comments about how sexuality is simply not addressed in the seminary, and coming out could mean dismissal.
Do you remember the gasps in the movie theater in 1982 when Harry Hamlin kissed Michael Ontkean in the film Making Love? I thought to myself, “What did you think you’d see?” Regrettably, the kiss ended Harry Hamlin’s career.
Philadelphia came out in 1993, starring Tom Hanks as an attorney who was fired for being gay and having AIDS. It was a tender and bold film, but it was about the law more than about a romance. Hanks won the Oscar for Best Actor and the film grossed $206M.
Each of these films, and many others, including those by Hallmark, inched us closer and closer to an honest portrayal of the lives of many gay men and women today. Red, White, & Royal Blue will be picked apart by gay critics, but I won’t read their reviews. For Ray and me, everything was right.