Kristen Coury’s Friends and Family is an ultra-bubbly, ultra-frothy comedy of errors in which stereotypes — both gay and straight — are given the full RIP treatment. The spry farce centers around Danny and Steven, a debonair Manhattan couple who work as body guards-cum-assassins for a mob boss. Everyone from the big guy down knows the boys are a coupla queers — and everyone is perfectly at ease with it. In fact, the don considers tough guys Danny and Steven heirs to his crime empire (in a turnabout but obvious joke, the don’s natural born straight sons prefer fashion design and cooking to guns ‘n ammo).
Friends and Family finds amusing conflict in the surprise arrival of Steven’s Midwestern parents, who think the boys operate a catering company. With the help of their crime “family, ” the couple mount an elaborate deception, concealing weaponry and staging a palatial birthday dinner for Steven’s dad who, it just so happens, is an undercover FBI agent. Why, it’s La Cage meets Goodfellas!
The film is flawed — the movie’s final half hour is a chaotic frenzy that even the most experienced directors would have trouble controlling. First time director Coury can’t handle the excess, and several comic opportunities are missed. Still, the film’s first hour is quick-witted and frequently inspired. When, for instance, a fellow mobster asks Steven and Danny how they met, they reply, “We were Army Rangers together. They asked. We told. ”
Greg Lauren and Christopher Gartin make a pretty pair as the mob boys, and are well-supported by a shooting gallery full of ancillary characters designed to liven things up, including flamboyant Edward Hibbart (of TV’s Fraiser), Designing Women mainstay Meshach Taylor, and Anna Maria Albergetti, spectacular as a loud, boorish mob matron. Tony Lo Bianco gives the film’s most nuanced performance as a kind-hearted kingpin comfortable with the alternative lifestyles of others.
One In Ten opened its 2001 Reel Affirmations gay and lesbian film festival with this crowd-pleaser, which nabbed that year’s Audience Award for Best Feature. The film returns this weekend for an encore showing as part of the group’s popular Reel Affirmations Xtra series.
The Xtra series typically features one film a month, and last year included such one-of-a-kind oddities as Attack of the Giant Moussaka. In March, One In Ten is hoping to snag City of No Limits, starring Geraldine Chaplin as an overbearing mother whose son decides to unearth his family’s darkest secrets, and uncovers a few of his own. Currently scheduled for April is a preview of the first two episodes of the 19th century lesbian coming-of-age saga Tipping the Velvet, before its BBC America debut.
Friends and Family screens this Friday, February 28, at the Jewish Community Center, 16th & Q Streets NW, at 7 and 9 p.m. Tickets cost $8 and go on sale at the JCC box office at 6 p.m. Call 202-986-1119 or visit www.reelaffirmations.org.