Rose Troche's Go Fish (1994) was notable amidst the then burgeoning genre of queer cinema for its resolute lightness. In fact, probably no one in the '90s gave the weighty dilemmas of identity politics a breezier, sunnier touch than Troche.
Bedrooms and Hallways is stylistically a new departure for Troche, but it is easy to see why she became attached to Robert Farrar's script. Set in London, the lead character Leo (Kevin McKidd) is prey to the same, sweet longings and confusions with which the women in Go Fish wrestled and danced.
Leo has just turned thirty. He has a terrific lot of friends, a reasonably nice and secure life, but no soul mate. Curiosity leads him to join a men's group led by the owlish Simon Callow in a swank, upper middle class pad. Every other guy in the group appears to be perfectly straight – at least, until Leo confesses he has the hots for Brendan (James Purefoy).
Leo's gesture unleashes a flurry of queer vibrations. And Leo himself is moved to re-explore his long discarded straight ways, after encountering his old flame, Sally (Jennifer Ehle). When he teases her by asking, "Are you over me?", she produces the best line of the film: "I haven't been under you yet".
Mixing romantic comedy with a mild touch of sex farce, Bedrooms and Hallways constructs a plot in which various characters' destinies keep intersecting. Hugo Weaving's role as an estate agent who likes to make out in the houses of his clients helps orchestrate this fine tangle – and also provides the kind of urbane analogy between market values and love's fortunes on which this genre today leans.
Troche has all but abandoned the bag of experimental tricks she plundered in Go Fish – no more nutty inserts of spinning tops, body parts or clothing fabrics. Bedrooms and Hallways is much closer to the television situation comedy form – sometimes too close for comfort.
There is much casual, incidental pleasure to be had with this film, but viewers' ultimate enjoyment will depend squarely on how much they like the men's group scenes, which take up more time than anything else. Callow, as usual, hams like crazy (he is all arched eyebrows and resonant growls), and many of the Iron John-style jokes resemble the satire in an old episode of Murphy Brown.
Still, for all its tepid moments, this is a film with a winning charm – and one can say that about far too few neo-romantic comedies these days.
© Adrian Martin July 1999