I’ll never forget the time a straight colleague warned me, “Be careful what you wish for because someday you’ll just be another disenfranchised white guy,” clearly speaking to the LGBT community’s battle for civil rights.
Much has changed in the 20 years since his declaration: marriage equality, protections against housing and employment discrimination, transgender rights and general acceptance by society.
While Hollywood has always been an ally on the journey, mainstream depictions of LGBT characters on the big screen have largely clung to tragic narratives about the AIDS crisis, forbidden love on remote mountaintops, and stereotypes of the sassy gay sidekick. Films like “Love, Simon” and “Call Me by Your Name” were a revelation only recently.
Well, we’re finally just more disenfranchised white guys in Hollywood’s eyes now.
“Supernova,” a British drama opening in local theaters this weekend and streaming soon, is the story of a longtime gay couple taking a road trip across England in their clunky camper van. Sam (Colin Firth) is a musician, while Tusker (Stanley Tucci) is a successful novelist. Their leisurely journey through the bucolic hills and valleys is anything but, as Tusker has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. They are actually on a slow-motion race to reunite with family and friends and collect their own memories together before the disease overtakes Tusker.
Both Harry Macqueen’s screenplay and direction are restrained and sentimental, but never melancholy or sappy, even after Sam discovers Tusker has a shocking plan to wrest control of his fate. In fact, it’s the powerful, yet always understated performances by Firth and Tucci that emphasize the banal universality of their circumstances and undying love.
And here’s my point, first made by that friend decades ago: Sam and Tusker could have been any couple — gay, straight, trans, pan. Without tweaking hardly a word, Firth and Tucci could have been replaced by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep or any other combination of A-list actors and the message would have been the same.
That said, this film simply couldn’t be recast. Firth and Tucci (both straight, incidentally) have an onscreen chemistry that would be hard to recreate by just any actors. They bicker like an old married couple and there’s a vulnerability when they attempt to cuddle in the cramped RV or Sam’s childhood bed.
They are both already shortlisted for a string of industry and critics’ awards. If you follow Hollywood gossip, it’s interesting to note their studio is promoting Firth for the best actor and Tucci for best-supporting actor categories, no doubt hoping they don’t cancel each other out in the final tallies. I might argue the opposite approach, but ultimately, like any real married couple, they are a team who have accomplished this feat together.
“Supernova” will be a contender for best picture, screenplay and direction trophies, too, but it also deserves a special celebration from our community because it is Hollywood’s most sincere affirmation that LGBT couples are just like everybody else. Finally.
Check local listings for theater and showtimes.