“Give or Take” (Breaking Glass), the feature-length directorial debut by Paul Riccio (who also co-wrote the screenplay) is not your typical gay movie.
With echoes of Mike Mills’ Oscar-winning 2010 film “Beginners” (also about a man who came out late in life and the way his straight son dealt with it), “Give or Take” does an effective job of presenting an oft-overlooked aspect of gay culture.
Detached New Yorker Martin (Jamie Effros, who co-wrote the screenplay with Riccio) returns to his childhood home in Orleans on Cape Cod following the death of his father Ken. Martin never really came to terms with the fact that his father came out after his mother’s death. Complicating things for Martin is the presence of Ted (Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz), Ken’s life partner of six years, who has been cohabitating with his late father.
Ted and Martin have distinctly different ways of dealing with the situation. Ted wears his emotions on his sleeve, openly grieving. Martin, on the other is closed off, showing sentiment around strange things, such as his old bedroom being converted into Ken’s “crafting” room.
Martin, who’s been away from Orleans for several years, encounters some wacky Cape Cod characters, including stoner pool maintenance guy Terrence (Louis Cancelmi) and realtor Patty (Cheri Oteri bringing her trademark shtick), whom Ted describes as a “two-faced jackal.” He also reconnects with old high school friend Emma (Joanne Tucker, wife of Adam Driver!), who operates the popular Land Ho! bar. He also soon discovers that the townsfolk who know Ted from his professional gardening work not only like him, but also fully accepted him and Ted as a couple.
Ted and Martin attempt to make the most of the difficult situation, being accommodating as necessary on points such as the funeral, Ken’s cremation wishes, sorting through Ken’s belongings, and ultimately how to move forward with the house. Ted and Ken were together for six years, but never married, and Ted was not included in Ken’s will.
Additional complications include the pushy couple offering Martin almost two million dollars cash for the house, Martin’s self-involved girlfriend Lauren (Annapurna Sririna) in New York, and his growing attraction to the married Emma. But all is not lost, and “Give or Take” gives viewers plenty of breaks from the drama. Martin’s interactions with Terrence provide necessary comic relief, and lead to one of the movie’s most delightfully surprising scenes.
The conclusion, while heartwarming, borders on being predictable. Nevertheless, Butz’s authentic performance grounds the movie and keeps it believable and raw.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of seven books including the expanded edition of his short story collection How to Whistle (Rattling Good Yarns Press, 2021). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.