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May 2, 2014

Evenings Out

A present worth unwrapping

There was a period, not so very long ago, when films about two gay men having an adorable baby were so incredibly played out that the sight of a tiny tot engendered more feelings of rage than another Cher farewell tour.

The gayby flood has dropped to a trickle, however, and the palate has had a chance to clear. The urge to toss the baby out with the proverbial bathwater has passed, and maybe, just maybe, such films can be watched without a blinding pain shooting from one temple to the other.

Thankfully, the film Birthday Cake came out just at this right moment. It also benefits from being a comedy and not a documentary, which might have been a step too far. Mind you, itís really a mockumentary follow-up to an award-winning short film, ďGroomís Cake,Ē but itís not an actual documentary, so itís watchable.

Chad Darnell wrote, directed, produced, choreographed, scored and did the alien effects while starring as Daniel Ferguson, a writer with a new television show who is about to celebrate the first birthday of his daughter Sam with his husband Steven James (Rib Hillis).

In addition to having the planning and the party filmed for a documentary to follow up ďGroomís Cake,Ē another mockumentary, Daniel has to deal with Jane Badler, who is playing an Elizabeth Taylor-esque role in his new television show. Sheís completely crazy, as is Stevenís mother. Stevenís grandmother (Lee Meriwether) has Alzheimerís, and, to add the sour cream on the taco of crap that their life is turning into, Steven invited Danielís fundamentalist Christian mother (Helen Shaver) and sister to the party without telling him.

On top of that, there are the usual assortment of wacky friends, a couple of suspect exes, a possibly gay brother, a friend with a ticking biological clock and a disgruntled sister. Throw in a congressman who just offed his wife and led police on a low-speed chase through Los Angeles, plus a dead clown, and youíve got some comedy gold there.

Darnell has assembled an interesting stew of snarky humor, genuine emotion and complete craziness. He vacillates a bit between broader and more subtle humor, but it pretty much always scores, and when you comes on with a case of the feels, itís really quite moving.

Possibly the most startling thing about the film is that everyone in it is great. There are almost no performances that seem strained or particularly artificial, which is really surprising in an independent LGBT film. Ariztical Entertainment really has a quiet winner with Birthday Cake, now out on DVD.











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