Here’s a Rainy Day Gay Rom-Com: “Sell By”

Sell By is a gay romantic comedy with modest ambitions that nevertheless lives up to its potential. It’s entertaining, but not game changing.

The film stars Scott Evans and Augustus Prew as Adam and Marklin, a gay couple five years into a relationship that’s now hit some turbulence. Adam is a struggling artist who recreates paintings for a wildly overhyped and overpriced painter named Ravella Brewer (in a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-her cameo by Patricia Clarkson) who rakes in astronomical sums while paying Adam just enough to cover his share of the rent. Meanwhile, Marklin is making enough to support them both as an “influencer” with a website called The Detailist, where he documents his every move in selling the image of a charmed life to his avid followers.

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More Than Meets the Eye

Writer/Director Mike Doyle does a good job at selling the notion that there is a genuine foundation of love between these two. But differences in income, self-esteem and sex drive threaten to upset the equilibrium of their otherwise stable relationship. Much to their credit, Evans and Prew are quite believable as the star-crossed pair. Interwoven with their relationship woes are several parallel stories of their circle of friends who are going through their own ups and downs.

Foremost in terms of sheer entertainment value is Michelle Buteau who has the most comedic material to mine. As Cammie, she learns that her boyfriend is in fact homeless and living in a shelter. Despite her misgivings, she finds herself caving in and taking him back, if for no other reason than the sex. In one of the weaker subplots, Zoë Chao stars as Haley, who fears that the 17-year-old high school student she’s been tutoring is falling for her. Haley is fixated on getting Scott James into a prestigious college, even if it means writing his essay for him. To his credit, Scott James sabotages her efforts by turning in his own. Last, but far from least, is Kate Walsh (formerly of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice) who stars as Adam’s BFF Elizabeth, who’s in an apparently stable relationship with her husband of some 15 years, Damon (played by Chaz Lamar Shepherd).

All the Spoilers

Things come to a head at Ravella Brewer’s gallery exhibition where she cavalierly passes off Adam’s work as her own. An inebriated Elizabeth tries to puncture the deception, but is eventually pulled away. The truth comes out that Elizabeth discovered that her husband has been cheating on her with a younger woman. Adam gets sloshed and takes a swing at Marklin, but slips and hurts himself in the process. But the self-destructive behavior continues as Adam breaks into an ice cream truck because the music is driving him nuts and ultimately winds up in the hospital, where he learns the truth about what Marklin has been hiding from him.

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From here, things spin out of control a bit in a ham-fisted effort to bring the various storylines to a climax and an eventual happy resolution. Trouble is, after more than an hour of following the meandering threads of their lives, the plotline simply runs dry, and the characters move across the screen like chess pieces as they deal with the issues holding them back. Sell By does make for a fun, if somewhat benign, date night with a gay couple at its center, but ultimately treads familiar rom-com territory along with its share of cliché and schmaltz. Hilarity and hijinks ensue, as the shopworn description goes, as the characters grapple with partners and the compromises they made with themselves and to each other along the way.

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Steve Gottfried
Tags: movies

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