William McNamara is engaged to a woman but hiding a terrible secret! His narcissistic WASP parents ignore the truth till it’s almost too late! I’d first dismissed the TV-movie Doing Time on Maple Drive as overripe camp. Then I read some testimonies from people who said it helped them come out. Re-visiting it in 2020 I see a well-made play with a fine cast, some scenery munching and a too pat ending.
Want to learn more? Then read my spoiler filled recap.
Act One: The Perfect Family
MATT (William McNamara): Meet Allison! We’re getting married!
DAD: I’m glad I still have one child I can be proud of.
SISTER and BROTHER (Jim Carrey): F*** you dad!
BROTHER-IN-LAW: Careful Allison. This family expects Matt to be perfect.
DAD: Do you want this marriage son? You didn’t just knock her up?
MATT: Oh dad, I love her. But you’ll always be the most important person in my life!
Act Two: The Golden Child
BROTHER (Jim Carrey): A toast to my perfect brother! (drinks.) Who I’ll never be as good as! (drinks.) EVERYBODY RIIIISE!
ALLISON (in tears): Matt, I found this letter in your coat pocket.
LETTER: Dear Matt. I’m sad that you’re leaving me after three years together, but I won’t interfere with your marriage. Good luck. Love, Kyle.
ALLISON: I sympathize. But I won’t be your beard.
MATT: What will I tell my parents? They’re the most important people in my life!
(Allison leaves. Matt drives his car into a telephone pole.)
Act Three: Confessions
SISTER: I had an abortion.
DAD: We’re dealing with your brother’s thing right now.
MOM: MATT, WHY WOULD YOU EMBARRASS ME LIKE THIS!
MATT: YOU KNOW! YOU WALKED IN ON ME AND KYLE TWO YEARS AGO! I’M GAY!
(Mom smashes up the room like she’s in Mommie Dearest.)
DAD: Look, I know I’ve been set up as the villain here but I’m a little concerned that our son tried to kill himself. I’m not thrilled about your abnormality but… you’re my son. And I love you.
MATT: I love you too dad. And I’m going back to Kyle.
The Well Made Play
“That drive not to disappoint one’s parents can flat out ruin your life.” ~ screenwriter James Duff.
Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House premiered in 1879. An unhappy woman hides a secret from her husband till she no longer can. When she learns he’s more concerned with his public image than their marriage she walks out the door. Divorce was scandalous in 1879 and the play was a sensation. George Bernard Shaw sniffed that such problem plays would be “flat as ditchwater” once society had evolved past the social issues they confronted. A Doll’s House is still produced and Doing Time on Maple Drive still has power, though it’s easy to laugh at the raw emotions they display.
Are you a fan of anyone in the cast? Have you seen the film? Would you like to?
Gay Star News interviews screenwriter James Duff.
New Now Next profiles screenwriter James Duff.
Greg in Hollywood’s photographs from the 25th Anniversary Screening.
Terrence Moss writes how the film impacted his coming out experience.
Entertainment Weekly’s 1992 review of the film.
And here’s a 1985 feature on Consenting Adult, a similar TV film, where Martin Sheen played the disproving father of a gay son. I’d planned to contrast the two films in this article but Consenting Adult has vanished from the internet. If it comes back into circulation they’ll make an interesting double feature.
Next week 1971’s LGBT community gets read for filth in the creatively titled It Is Not the Homosexual who is Perverse, But the Society in Which He Lives. For more reviews of LGBT Media click here.