In one of the most influential moments of “Spoiler Alert,” the camera does something unexpected and clever: it leaves the room. Just when a dinner table conversation becomes unbearably painful, the audience is transported outside, where we can only watch the characters in the shadows through a window, hear nothing.
We don’t need to hear the words. We know that Kit (Ben Aldridge) and her boyfriend Michael (Jim Parsons) told Kit’s family (heartbreaking Sally Field and Bill Irwin) that their handsome, charismatic son is possibly terminally ill. We know them all well enough to fill in the blanks.
An admirable moment of restraint in a movie that doesn’t always make that choice. Directed by Michael Showalter and based on Michael Ausiello’s memoir of the relationship, “Spoiler Alert”, while often deeply touching, sometimes can’t seem to decide what kind of movie it is, resulting in a series of jarring tonal shifts—especially one full-on. and the last to distract us from the characters and their plight when we are most devoted to them. Sometimes, “Spoiler Alert” feels like a sharp, clever movie that brilliantly plays out the main character’s lifelong television obsession. In others, it feels like a more formulaic, holiday-themed teardrop – the years gone by are marked in a Christmas card montage! – it’s squeezing our tears in vague ways.
Being second is not a crime, but the movie often reminds us that you are trying to be first. In any case, bring those Kleenexs because you’re going to need them. You will cry. That much is given.
We witness the couple’s first meeting in a bar. Television reporter Michael (Parsons starring and producing) doesn’t really like bars. He’s a “work late, get up early man” and is committed to Diet Coke. But a colleague dragged her out and now she sees Kit across the dance floor and she’s gorgeous, so, that’s it. (Aldridge is incredibly fascinating – if you don’t already know this actor, you’ll probably just randomly Google “Tell me about Ben Aldridge” like me.
Soon the two of them have dinner and talk about their lives. The truth is, there seems to be very little that ties the two together—neither jobs, family situations, certainly not Michael’s obsession with the Smurfs, although we’re getting over ourselves on this one. But chemistry works in mysterious ways. They soon arrive at Kit’s apartment and hang around awkwardly.
Well, oddly enough for Michael, who is much less comfortable explaining that he is an FFK (ex-fat boy) and therefore has body issues. If you can’t quite picture it, we have a running motif in which Michael’s youth is portrayed as an old-fashioned sitcom – a device that looks clever at first but weakens.
Anyway, Kit soon gave Michael closet space in his apartment. When Kit falls ill with appendicitis (unrelated to subsequent health issues), his parents insist on coming to New York, which results in a hilarious attempt by Michael to “eliminate homosexuality” in Kit’s apartment (did we mention? Kit isn’t out yet) to his family. .) That “The Beaches” DVD? Gone. In “When Harry Met Sally.” And more.
But when she gets home, it only takes Mom a few moments to realize that Michael, who somehow knows where the spare sheets are, is more than just a casual friend. Kit finally exclaims, “I’m gay,” and the parents are upset—because he hadn’t told them before. “We’re actually kind of cool,” my dad says. More than anyone else in the movie, Field is the one who will bring you to tears as you navigate between love and loss.
More than a decade has passed (punctuated by these Christmas cards) and the couple is having domestic problems and living apart. But then tragedy begins, bringing them even closer. We witness painful doctor visits, different medical views. Soon after, Kit begins chemotherapy, and when there are no beds available, only one chair – a painful situation for Kit – Michael goes into full “Terms of Love” mode. “Find my husband a bed!” yells at the nurse.
And when you think Shirley MacLaine is a little too much, she does justice to the joke: “It worked for Shirley MacLaine,” he tells Kit. The fact that you can’t be completely sure is a sign of the film’s frequent tonal shifts.
In any case, you’re on your own from here on out, dear viewer, because my careful notes turn into “no” and “very sad”.
Spoiler alert: Love—romantic, platonic, parent—often comes at a terrible price.
“Spoiler Alert,” a Focus Features publication, was rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sexual content, drug abuse, and thematic elements.” Execution time: 112 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.