LGBT Movies: I Think I Do (1997)

“It’s a date movie, like straight people have had for years, and I’m glad to fill that gap. I’m a big romantic at heart.” ~ Writer/Director Brian Sloan.

A writer is violently rejected by their college crush. Years later they reunite at a friend’s wedding. The writer’s dating a soap opera star but the crush has had a change of heart. I Think I Do is a romantic comedy that isn’t particularly funny. The protagonist (trans artist Alexis Arquette) is a sourpuss who is too self-loathing to realize they’re being pursued by two dream boats. The supporting actors play hammy clichés. Luckily the likeable dreamboats provide the wish fulfillment fantasy that every romcom needs. The soap hunk could have been a blowhard but Tuc Watkins makes him an adorable clown. Christian Maelen brings layers to the underwritten crush. Both men find the vulnerability and charm in their roles. They elevate a mediocre film into pleasant C+ territory.

What makes this film interesting to me is the year it was released. LGBT+ romcoms were new territory in the 90’s. 1995’s Jeffrey and 1999’s Trick were the tentpoles, but the genre wouldn’t pick up steam till the 2000’s. I Think I Do was ahead of the curve and deserves to be remembered for that.

I couldn’t find the film on streaming services so I ordered a used DVD. Want to learn more? Here’s a spoiler filed recap.

Act One: Unrequited Love

1 Bar
Missing the clues.

Scene One: College Party
BOB (a Nerd): I’m in love with Brendan.
FIVE STRAIGHT FRIENDS: Give up Bob. He’s straight.
BRENDAN (a Hunk): Best friends forever! Let’s wrestle bro!
(They wrestle. They give each other wedgies. Bob grabs Brendan’s ass. Brendan punches Bob in the face.)
BOB: He’ll never speak to me again.

Scene Two: A Few Years Later
STERLING SCOTT (Bob’s boyfriend, a Soap Opera Star): Your straight friends are getting married! Maybe Sterling Scott and Bob should get a domestic partnership!
BOB: No. Maybe. Yes. But let’s not tell anyone.
FIVE STRAIGHT FRIENDS: We each have a subplot!
BOB: Do I need to care about them? And if you’re all here does that mean…
BRENDAN: Hey… I’ve missed you.

Scene Three: Wedding
NERDY GROOM: I’m so glad you didn’t get AIDS.
BOB: … Thank you?
BRENDAN: I’ve been asked to read a speech. It’s about two people who grew up alongside each other… And one day…after all the wrestling and beers and wedgies they realized that they loved each other all along.
ANGRY BRIDE: I’M HAVING A PANIC ATTACK!

Act Two: Expected Surprises

2 Scott
Sterling Scott has a good heart.

Scene Four: Wedding Reception
MARNI NIXON: It’s me! The dubbed singing voice of classic movie musicals! I’m playing the zany aunt. A shame nobody wrote me any jokes.
STERLING SCOTT: Bob wrote great story lines for Sterling Scott on his soap opera. Then Sterling Scott proposed! Oops, that was a secret.
RANDOM WAITER: That’s Sterling Scott! I’m sexually attracted to him.

Scene Five: Restroom
(Brendan follows Bob into the restroom.)
BOB: So you teach now?
BRENDAN: Yes. So you were in love with me?
BOB: Crazy right? I’m sorry I sexually harassed you.
BRENDAN: I’m sorry I punched you in the face.
BOB: Apology accepted. Now we can move on with our lives and…
(Brendan tries to kiss Bob. Bob dodges. Brendan crashes into a wall.)
BOB: We’re introducing slapstick midway through the film?
BRENDAN: Our wrestling matches were sort of slapstick.
(Brendan kisses Bob.)

Scene Six: That Night
BOB: You knew in college?
BRENDAN: I didn’t know I knew. You know?
BOB: No! I’m angry with you! I’m going to be in a sour mood for the rest of the film!
BRENDAN: Not the best flavor for a romcom.
BOB: You made me feel lonely and ashamed!
BRENDAN: Sterling’s passed out drunk. Spend the night with me.
(Bob and Brendan have sex.)

Act Three: Decisions

3 Bed
Wish fulfillment at its finest.

Scene Seven: Morning After
FIVE STRAIGHT FRIENDS: Our subplots still aren’t interesting!
BOB: Cool.
BRENDAN: Do you love me?
BOB: Yes. No. Maybe. We’re becoming unlikable characters.
BRENDAN: But we look good in our briefs! (giggles adorably)
BOB: Stop being adorable! Now I’m the only unlikable character!

Scene Eight: Courtyard
BOB: You told my friends we were engaged because you’re insecure and old!
STERLING SCOTT: I told you my real age because I thought you liked me.
BOB: Oh hell. You were supposed to be a jerk. Now I look like a monster.
STERLING SCOTT: What’s that on your neck?
(It’s a hickey! Bob tries to hide the hickey and faints. Sterling sees the hickey and faints.)
FIVE STRAIGHT FRIENDS: Slapstick again? And Brendan’s gay?
BRENDAN: Possibly bi?

Scene Nine: Bus Station

Spoilers

STERLING SCOTT: So you cheated? It’s okay. I had an affair once too.
BOB: You what?
STERLING SCOTT: I’ll get our luggage.
BRENDAN: You’re leaving with him?
BOB: Yes.
(Brendan breaks down in tears. Bob smiles.)
(Cut to: Bob and Brendan sitting side by side on the bus to New York.)

THE END. THE BEGINNING

STERLING SCOTT: Wait wait wait. What just happened?
BOB: Well… umm… he cried. Now I know he really cares about me.
STERLING SCOTT: So if I broke down in tears right now you’d choose me?
BRENDAN: Too late. We met each other first. You never get over your first crush! Just look at the Hallmark films.
STERLING SCOTT: None of this is okay. Sterling Scott is going to pursue a healthy relationship!
(Sterling Scott leaves with the Random Waiter from the wedding reception.)
RANDOM WAITER: I love romcoms!

[collapse]

“Two Couples, One Wedding, No Funerals”

4 Straight Friends
The straight friends are also in this film.

The main thing was to market it as a wedding comedy… Not really gay vs. straight, but about people falling in love. ~ Writer/Director Brian Sloan.

Last February I divided a series of GBT romcoms into “Good, Bad and Mediocre” categories. I Think I Do fits firmly in the mediocre. Pleasant comfort food that checks the romcom boxes. It presents a community where same sex couples are accepted and embraced. The closet put a damper on Brendan’s youth but once he’s out his romantic foibles are given the same weight as those of his straight friends.

Tuc Watkins (Sterling Scott) gave a delightful performance in the 2018 revival of The Boys in the Band on Broadway. I think he’ll surprise a lot of people when the filmed version drops on Netflix in 2020. Christian Maelen (Brendan) has retired from Hollywood and Alexis Arquette (Bob) is sadly no longer with us. While the role wasn’t great it was the first instance I could find of a trans artist cast as a romantic lead. (Though the role is presented as a cis male.) Writer / Director Brian Sloan recently wrote a promising pilot, West 40’s, that is crowd funding for a full season.

For more reviews of QUILTBAG media click here.

Next time: We’ll revisit 1997 for the dark satire All The Rage.