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Monday, May 23, 2016

'The Sum of Us' BD: Russell Crowe Shines as Well-Adjusted Gay Aussie Bloke

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Olive Films provides a timely reminder of the spirit of Gay Pride (and the release of the new Russell Crowe film "The Nice Guys") regarding the May 24, 2106 Blu-ray release of the 1994 Crowe dramedy "The Sum of Us." Only having chants of "Wolverine! Wolverine!" during the opening credits of this Australian film fulfilled would have made "Sum" any more enjoyable.

In thinking about "Sum," it is equally important to remember that public attitudes about gay men were not nearly as evolved in 1994 as they are today. Along those lines, Crowe took a significant career risk playing an everybloke whom no one would guess engages in sex with other men unless he told you or you caught him in the act.

The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN theatrical trailer for "Sum" provides a good sense of the spirit of the film but errs on the side of making it seem like more of a comedy than it is. You will smile and may laugh but mostly will enjoy the characters go about their lives and try to change themselves and their loved ones for the better.


The screenplay by David Stevens winning numerous awards (including one from the Australian Film Institute) for this adaptation of his play of the same name is one of the best endorsements for "Sum." On a more prurient level, 1994-era Crowe wearing short shorts throughout much of the film and also appearing wrapped in an incredibly low-slung towel will provide the target audiences additional enjoyment.

Crowe playing gay 20-something plumber Jeff Mitchell may inspire additional fantasies regarding folks whose prurient thoughts involve tradesmen. This character lives with his awesomely accepting and loving retired father Harry in a more supportive and middle-class version of the '70s sitcom "Sanford and Son."

Harry being sincerely friendly to overnight guests of Jeff and buying gay porn magazines to better understand exactly the activity in which Jeff and these guests engage illustrate how the elder Mitchell is the dad that many gay men would want but that few have. Harry goes as far as to cater the morning-after breakfast to the taste of the guest.

Some of the best scenes in "Sum" involves Harry insinuating himself in the conversation (including preliminary pillow talk) between Jeff and probable Mr. Right Greg. The interaction of the three is hilarious, and the contrast between the blase Jeff and the more anxious Greg is highly entertaining. For that matter, playful "you show me yours, and I'll show you mine" flirting between the younger lads shows the chemistry between Crowe and Greg portrayor John Polson.

For his part, Harry dipping his toe back in the dating pool by meeting and establishing a relationship with conservative middle-aged divorcee Joyce propels some of the "dram" in the film. In this case, Harry gets to be the blase one and Joyce the flustered Fiona on abruptly learning that Jeff is gay.

Stevens nicely augments the entertaining interaction between the Miller men with Harry regularly breaking down the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience. This is especially well executed in that our first hint of what to come consists of Harry briefly smiling directly into the camera only to return to going about his business as if he is not being watched.

It is equally nice to see a gay character whose sexuality does not define him and is not much more of a big deal to him than it is to his father. Jeff does frequent gay bars, has had boyfriends (as opposed to one-night stands), and gossips with female colleagues about men but presents a naturally manly image and does not make a spectacle of himself at Gay Pride events.

Although Jeff is the center of "Sum," Harry steals the show as a not-so-educated man from an era in which closet doors were firmly locked from both sides but accepts his son for the reasons that the soliloquies that Stevens expertly crafts for him explains. As Harry would say, Jeff is encouraged to use Harry's rear garden to plow a bloke's backyard.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Sum" is strongly encouraged to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.