Jeffrey (1995) stars Steven Weber as the title character who is a gay man living under the shadow of the AIDS epidemic. Fearful of catching the disease, he abandons any hope of ever having sex and devotes his time towards other pursuits to channel all that pent up energy. Like working out, where he meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss) with whom he shares an instant attraction/connection. Jeffrey is all for developing a relationship with Steve until he learns that the possible love of his life is HIV Positive. This causes Jeffrey to withdraw from Steve and go further into a forced solitude. His friends, Sterling (Patrick Stewart) and his lover, Darius (Bryan Batt), seek to support our hero and get him to abandon his life of forced celibacy and go after Steve. To pursue happiness. Jeffrey hems and haws despite the fact that Darius is also Positive and in a loving committed relationship. It’s only after Darius’s passing that Jeffrey sees what has been in front of him all this time: someone who completes him and will love him unconditionally. Jeffrey seeks Steve out and the two reconcile. A new couple is born.
I first encountered this movie one lonely night while surfing the bowels of cable television. I found the title humorous and the opening line drew me in. ” I love sex. I think it’s a great idea.” Jeffrey tells the audience, and then we hear the sounds of moaning and groaning. Yeah, I was tractor beamed. What surprised me was seeing TWO GUYS going at it. (Within the bounds of suggested shadowed soft core.) And the kicker dialogue:
Jeffrey- “It broke!”
Dude- “What broke?”
Jeffrey- ” The condom. It broke.”
Dude- “Well, we could always cuddle. Like bunnies. Or little babies!”
I laughed and continued watching. It was a charming little ride. I didn’t really like Jeffrey until the last scene wherein he finally gets over his own bullshit and accepts Steve with a full heart. I had been watching Queer As Folk so same sex relationships were no big shock to me. I hadn’t, however, had all that much experience knowing LGBTQ people except for my cousin, who I accepted immediately when she came out to me. What I did have was a belief that all persons, gay or straight, need love and feel the same pain and joy it brings. Jeffrey feared a disease which was rapidly becoming a new plague. It destroyed lives and tore communities apart with hate and misunderstanding over its nature. He was willing to live alone rather than possibly contract it. He denied himself happiness because of ignorance. Amazing the power fear has over a mind.
Jeffrey has become a time capsule of another age. AIDS is still here but not as prominent in the minds of Americans as it once was. If it’s the guest who wouldn’t leave, then the party has moved on down the street. It’s still out there. Still a threat. Wear all the ribbons you want; People are still dying.
Okay, that got dark. But life isn’t always a rainbow. It can be cruel. Same sex couples still fight for their rights to live and love as any other person does. I know a lot more LGBTQ people than I once did and my life is richer and better for it. They are no different than the straight folks I know. They have jobs and families. Hopes and dreams. Being alternative doesn’t make you an alien. It doesn’t make them perverse. It makes them human.
Like Jeffrey, I hid from love too. For a very long time I held my unrealistic standards of beauty and personality. I closed myself off to any chance of finding love until I got over myself and let someone in. She wasn’t a beauty queen; and let’s put this down on the table, I wasn’t Brad Pitt either. Once I let go of my fixations about who and what I wanted, the floodgates opened. I have finally found my better half with a wonderful transgender woman. Does that mean I have forsaken the binary for the exotic? Maybe so. I’m happy. I haven’t felt this content in years. That was my choice. She lives as a woman and I love her as one. Hate will kill you faster than cancer. It rots the soul. What is worse than hate is fear. Fear of that which you cannot control or understand. Because some long dead troll with anger management issues said something was wrong, I became stronger than reason. We live in a world ruled by the close-minded and the ignorant. Do I consider myself better than them because I was able to overcome my own personal ignorance? Look deeply into someone’s eyes before they draw their last breath stolen by a virus which could have been stopped decades ago, or take a pause to meet the gaze of the person who’s skull you’re about to crack open. Am I better than them? I would at least try to not let the balloon hit the floor.
When film works, it generates discussion. Be it a review or a criticism. Jeffrey is a romantic comedy with serious undertones. It moves along fairly quickly. The characters are accessible and the plot really easy to follow. If you’re a big softie or looking for a good date movie, check it out. Don’t let the rambling of this aging geek taint your perceptions. I have straight friends who found this movie quite enjoyable.
In case you were wondering, where do I place myself on the Gay-Straight scale? I said it before and I will repeat myself…I am HAPPY. What else matters?