“Friendships between gay and straight guys can be healing and uniquely satisfying for all involved.” ~ Michael C. LaSala Ph.D., LCSW. Psychology Today.
Gay men have befriended women in media for decades. Today I’m looking at films focused on friendships between gay and straight men. Most are mediocre. A few are downright unpleasant. But there are some gems.
The following reviews contain mild spoilers
Coming of Age
Date and Switch (2014). Dopey straight Michael and vulgar gay Matty seek dates for prom (despite clearly pushing 30). Matty doesn’t like guys who act “too gay” so he starts dating a masc-for-masc jerk. Michael feels abandoned and spends the rest of the movie moping. The film thinks these oafs are hilarious. Your mileage may vary. Wastes the talents of a strong supporting cast. C-
Heartstone (2016). Surly Icelandic teen copes with crushes, bullies, and an unhappy family. His sole defender is his gay best friend who’s fallen in love with him. The gay friend is sympathetic but he’s there to suffer and further the straight boy’s journey. The slow pace, thin plot and relentless gloom make this one hard to sit through. Contains triggery scenes of violence against people and animals. C
My Best Friend (2018). Lorenzo’s a studious, well mannered teen. He falls hard for Caito, the rebellious son of a family friend. Each tries to change for the other but Caito’s got a dark secret he can’t hide for long. Heartbreak is inevitable. Writer/Director Martín Deus draws layered performances from his actors. Lautaro Rodríguez finds potential for good and bad in the cagey Caito. Angelo Mutti Spinetta’s stoic Lorenzo faces harsh truths with startling maturity. B
Nico and Dani (2000). (aka Krampack) Two teens try to lose their virginity over summer vacation. Dani soon realizes he’d rather be with Nico than the young women they’re dating. The strong cast and clever dialogue could have carried a delightful coming of age comedy. Unfortunately, an act of sexual assault occurs midway through that is treated as a joke. This ugly moment sours the picture for me. C
Reach (2018). Garrett Clayton’s depressed introvert befriends Johnny Fiore’s manic hipster dream boy. Soon they’re smoking pot, standing up to bullies and writing a terrible school play. Then they learn each other’s tragic secrets. Clayton’s feelings for his friend remain sub textual but the film was marketed to the gay press. Unfortunately the screenplay can’t settle on a tone. Broad comedy clashes with scenes of abuse and self-harm. Some unpleasant villains drown the third act in melodrama. D
Velociraptor (2014). It’s the last day on earth and the city has been evacuated. Two abandoned teens swap stories about their love lives and fantasies. The straight guy (Carlos Hendrick Huber) wonders how much comfort he should offer his lonely gay friend (Pablo Mezz) before the world ends. It’s a tricky role and Huber plays it well. He balances his brash and gentle sides and makes his ultimate decision believable. Maintains an anxious, surreal atmosphere to offset the low budget effects and minimal plot. C+
4th Man Out (2015). Gay man comes out to his straight bros. They set him up on dates while worrying he may have crushes on them. Some moments of sweetness are hidden between the gay panic jokes. C
Eating Out (2004). The amateur sex farce that spawned a franchise. Straight man falls for a woman who only likes gay men. He “pretends” to date her gay roommate. Complications ensue. The men are a few notches above porn acting while the women get to scream and cavort like drag queens. The seduction scenes aim for funny but land on cringey. D
Kinky Boots (2005). Dull Charlie (Joel Edgerton) inherits a failing shoe factory. When he runs into a magical drag queen, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), he gets the idea of making “kinky boots” for men. Lola’s sexuality is unexplored. She exists solely to save Charlie’s job while fielding insults from his co-workers. The stage adaptation gives Lola more agency but it’s still Charlie’s story. Charlie’s a bore. C
Partners (1982). Ryan O’Neil’s straight cop and John Hurt’s gay cop go undercover to investigate a murder in a gay neighborhood. They drive a pink car, wear skimpy outfits and have domestic arguments. Hurt struggles valiantly to play his “nance” role with honesty. He endures a string of homophobic slurs before finally stopping the killer. Unpleasant. D
Regular Guys (1996). German comedy. Straight cop befriends a gay auto-mechanic while investigating a car theft. There’s lots of sexual tension between the two and the cop is subjected to some homophobia. A last-minute girlfriend restores his straight cred. The actors are likeable, and easy on the eyes, but some “comical” scenes of sexual harassment haven’t aged well. C
Cowboys and Angels (2003). Mopey straight guy (Michael Legge) balances a miserable day job with running drugs at night. Luckily he’s got a magical gay roommate (Allen Leech) to give him a makeover and bail him out of trouble. The men find charm and chemistry in their one note roles. Unfortunately, the drug subplot sends the movie down a gloomy pit that Leech’s quips can’t quite dig it out of. Still Legge eventually helps Leech with his fashion career. This makes them one of the more balanced friendships on this list. C
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985). Gay artist and straight activist are thrown in a Brazilian prison. They must trust each other to survive. William Hurt won an Oscar for his role but the film has not aged as well as the novel that inspired it. C
Roommates (1994). Straight man (Randy Quaid) gets AIDS and moves into a half-way house with a gay roommate (Eric Stoltz). Quaid overcomes his homophobia while Stoltz nobly dies. Clichéd. C-
Strawberry and Chocolate (1993). Straight activist spies on gay artist on behalf of Cuba’s Communist party. They debate politics and develop a friendship. The film shares several elements with Kiss of the Spider Woman. Like that piece, it won great acclaim but its treatment of the gay characters can make it hard to watch today. C
Some trends in the 15 films listed.
- 9 focus on the straight man’s journey
- 10 of the gay leads are love with their straight friend
- 4 of the straight leads end up sleeping with their gay friend
- 3 kill the gay character off
- 2 kill the straight character off
- 2 subject the gay character to serious injury
What constitutes a healthy friendship? Must a gay man have unrequited feelings for his straight best friend? If he does how does the friendship move beyond that? What are some of your favorite gay/straight male friendships in media?
The gay friend / straight friend set up lends itself to both drama and situation comedy.
Besties (2014) ~ Gay/straight friends go on awkward double dates.
Julian (2015) ~ German coming out drama.
My Gay Roommate (2012-2014) ~ Broad sitcom. Season three was my favorite.
Paper Boys (2015) ~ quarter life crisis with a supernatural twist.
I’ll also give a shout out to the friendship between Isak and Jonas in the series Skam (2015-2017). While not the focus of the show it grows from a negative place to one of the healthier male friendships in the series.
Gay guys hook up with their straight friends in a lot of short films. Here are some where the friendships remain platonic.
How the Moon Fell from the Sky ~ a melancholy musical.
My Friend Jamie ~ though the ending is ambiguous. NSFW
Piscina ~ buddies look for a swimming pool.
Same Difference ~ about twin brothers, one gay, one straight.
Swimsuit ~ lonely guys chat on a beach.
Uitgesproken (“Caged”) ~ friends stand up to some over-the-top bullies.