When HBO canceled Looking shortly after its second season last year, a part of me felt disappointed. Yes, the show presented a gentrified vision of contemporary gay life in San Francisco, and, yes, its narratives almost always orbited around the dual poles of whiteness and masculinity. But Looking, along with RuPaul's Drag Race and Cucumber, was one of the few shows on TV to reliably feature multiple gay male perspectives on every episode. Plus, I was convinced that the series was slowly building up to a critique of the myopic slice of privileged gayness it depicted—or, at least that it had been building up to such a critique before its run was cut unexpectedly short. I imagined that season three would find Patrick (Jonathan Groff) realizing how much he had sublimated in order to get everything he wanted. The expensive, all-glass condo, the Equinox membership card-carrying boyfriend twin—what good are these signifiers of a Wealthy White Gay life well spent if he's fucking miserable and brimming with self-loathing?
I was wrong. Over the weekend, HBO aired Looking: The Movie: a final televised chapter in the series intended to tie up any of the show's loose narrative ends and give fans the proper farewell they were denied. Over the course of its 124-minute runtime, the film, which anchors its plot on the wedding of reformed enfant terrible Agustín (Frankie J. Alvarez) and soon-to-be husbear Eddie (Daniel Franzese), finds Patrick doubling down on his heteronormative aspirations. It looks like my Looking season three fan fiction is better left for Wattpad. If Patrick ever was some kind of Queer Nation sleeper cell sent to infiltrate the Principality of New Castro, he's never waking up.
Executive producer Andrew Haigh—who directed and co-wrote Looking: The Movie alongside Michael Lannan—appears to have anticipated this critique with the character of Brady (Chris Perfetti), the angry-drunk journalist boyfriend of Patrick's ex, Richie (Raúl Castillo). Brady and Patrick have a history of confrontation, usually centered on how Patrick is "everything that's wrong with the gay community." This past animosity bubbles to the surface during the film's climactic scene at Agustín and Not Damian's nightclub wedding reception:
Patrick: Brady thinks he's the Grand Minister of Queer! The leader of the Gay Thought Police!
Brady: It's called having a brain that thinks about things. Sorry if I want us to be a little better.
Patrick: Wow, OK, it's just a little frustrating that sometimes Brady thinks there's only one way to be gay and that way is his way.
Brady: I'm just sick of people like you giving us a bad name, 'kay?
Patrick: You'd think that if there was such a thing as "us," there'd be a little more solidarity.
Brady: Well, maybe you don't deserve it.
Patrick: I will never understand why you're so intent on making me feel bad because I can't live up to some ideal that I'll never live up to because it just isn't who I am!
In the battle raging on between Looking's assimilationist gays and separatist queers, it's clear which side we're supposed to root for. Patrick's just a nice guy, doing the best he can to be happy, and it's rude of the mean, alcoholic blogger (lol, @ me next time) to poke holes in that self-serving narrative.
Ultimately, though, it's not the Looking movie's politics that make it a bad movie. It's a bad movie because it's a bad movie. The dialogue between Brady and Patrick is as stilted as it is reductive, lacking any of the critical nuance found in Transparent's depiction of intra-community schism. The second season of Jill Soloway's Amazon series explored divisions between trans-inclusionary and trans-exclusionary feminisms in L.A.'s queer lady community with such detail and masterful execution that I felt like a fly on the wall for actual, real-world conversations. None of that depth or accuracy can be found in Looking.
Critics praised Haigh for depicting the mundane aspects of the gay day-to-day with the same directorial naturalism that garnered him praise for his excellent 2011 breakout film, Weekend. But if naturalism is what the Looking movie is serving, then why are the details so undercooked? Why do the characters talk about marriage as if their battle for social equality has been won? Why, save for Britney Spears' "Piece of Me," is the soundtrack so decidedly, blandly hetero-Garden State? (Comedian Guy Branum elaborates on this point during a 2015 episode of his podcast, Pop Rocket.) Why are these gay characters referencing The Kids Are All Right? To paraphrase Le1f's critique of Macklemore's "Same Love," only straight people care about that movie about gay people!
Worst of all, the Looking movie is straight-up boring. There's just no tension. In fact, I can only think of two even mildly dramatic scenes: one, when Brady and Patrick argue over who's the best gay, and two, when Patrick's ex, Kevin (Russell Tovey), momentarily raises his very British voice at his would-be husband twin. After that…I don't know, there's the scene where Agustín says he's worried he might cheat on Eddie?
There's no more risk, danger, or complication in Looking: The Movie's plot than there is in its depiction of contemporary gay identity. At least the ass-eating scene about 18 minutes in is really hot.
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.