August 22, 2012

Queer Review: Making Love (1982)

Making Love
Director: Arthur Hiller
Writers: Barry Sandler and A. Scott Berg.
Cast: Michael Ontkean, Kate Jackson, Harry Hamlin, Wendy Hiller, Arthur Hill, Nancy Olson

Although, one of the earliest mainstream films to attempt a positive portrayel of gay male sexuality, Making Love actually succeeds at being one of the worst. The lone upside of the film is that this mind bendingly awful tripe was able to be made in the first place, could be considered a sign that queer content was losing the stigma it once held.

Married doctor and all around nice guy, Dr. Zach (Michael Ontkean) is vaguely troubled by his ill defined sexual orientation and attraction to other men. He meets and has an affair with writer and gay Lothario Bart (Harry Hamlin), who is uninterested in a committed relationship. Caught in the middle is Zachs' wife, Claire (Kate Jackson) who only wishes to start a family with Zach.

The Queering
In my lifetime, I have been to my share of gay bars, as well as to what some people might refer to as "redneck" bars. And yes, I know the term "redneck" is overlaid with problems but bear with me for a moment. Oddly enough, none of the supposedly gay bars presented in Making Love really reminded me of any gay bar I have gone to. However, the bars do somewhat resemble redneck bars where the male patrons just so happen to like to gently hold each other or tenderly caress their partners shoulders.

There is no kissing though, as apparently someone declared law against the non-main characters kissing in this film. We do occasional see a bit of what might almost be considered necking, but really, the better term would be neck pecking.

And this is where the problems begin with Making Love. The strong sense of artifice that infuses every scene. There is not a single moment that does not betray the fact that it was dribbled from a writers pen. From moment to moment, I had a hard time deciding what was worse, the horrible acting or the gag inducing writing. The lone exception is Harry Hamlin, who gives the best performance by managing to display a moderate degree of charisma.

There are those who claim that Making Love was a groundbreaking film regarding positive portrayals of LGBTQ characters. That may be, but the film goes overboard in this regard, causing the characters to become 1 dimensional caricatures. In a romance, it is essential that there be somebody who can feel real. Here, the audience is given nothing more than hollow wisps blowing on empty breezes.

There are other problems as well, one that I previously pointed out inAnother Gay Movie. That is the film does not ever really feel like a queer film at all. Sure, some of the characters occasionally kiss members of the same sex and roll around a few sheets with them as well. But the film also goes to extraordinary lengths to point out the heterosexual nature and backgrounds of both Zach and Bart. There is far more straight kissing in this film than gay kissing.

For a film that portends to be one of the earliest major gay films, there was an awful lot of focus on the heterosexual relationships. The film even ends with Claire staring wistfully staring as Zach makes his final farewell to her. In real life she would have burned his cheating ass in effigy and moved on with her life.

Throw in the lack of any genuine examination of queer concerns -- at least outside of an occasional reference such as when Bart talks about his fathers' attempts to get him to engage in the manly pursuit of Baseball -- and I have a difficult time considering this an example of gay or queer cinema.

I can cite plenty examples of extremely problematic cinema from the late 60's such as The Detective, The Sergeant or The Boys in the Band but each of those films at least dealt openly with legitimate queer characters and issues. Which of course made them revolutionary for the time period that they came out of. That is not a statement that can be applied to Making Love which amounts to nothing more than the blandest pile of fluff one is as likely to find in the 80's. In a decade not known for its' substance, that is saying something.

I would rather make love to a rabid pack of feces flinging howler monkeys than watch this film again.

The Rating
* out of ****


Want to find a review of a particular work? Check out the Title Index, the archive of all reviews posted listed alphabetically.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.