The second night of NewFest’s Queering the Canon retrospective featured Greg Berlanti’s The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy. Aptly named, this 2000 film focuses on an eclectic friend group made up of gay men. These friends go through the trials and tribulations of love, relationships, family, and what it means to be friends in the early 21st century.
The broken hearts club: a romantic comedy
The Broken Hearts Club is a bright, loud film that details the intimate lives of this group of friends. Starring Timothy Olyphant as Dennis, John Mahoney as Jack, Zach Braff as Benji, and Billy Porter as Taylor, the film relies on the ensemble and their surrounding friends and family as they work through the hardships of love and friendship.
I liked this movie because of how it reflected queer friend groups. Contrary to some people’s views on queerness, there isn’t just one or two ways to “be gay”. Every queer person is their own individual. The desire for a community that can understand your wants and needs in a society that is often hostile to gay people is shown in The Broken Hearts Club. The medley of different personalities in the central friend group tears down the notion that gay men are a monolith.
Aside from their sexuality, the group is connected through their softball league “The Broken Hearts Club”. Jack, the group’s elder mentor is often giving Dennis and the crew advice on their love lives. Most of the group is searching for a relationship or wondering when love will come their way. Some of the other members, like Taylor and Howie (Matt McGrath) are working to save their partnerships with their significant others. Even though the story doesn’t follow just one man’s foray into love, The Broken Hearts Club portrays the multitude of ways that queer people can find love.
One of my favorite story lines follows Patrick (Ben Weber). He believes he is the “ugly duckling” of the group and is surrounded by his “beautiful” friends. As the story progresses he is forced to decide whether or not he is going to donate his sperm to his lesbian sister and her partner. I felt for his character because really, who wants to feel that all of your friends are more attractive than you? But as the movie continues he begins to find value in his friendships and the new family that is coming together around him.
Although the story is quite goofy, with title cards detailing little quirks of gay life in the early 2000s, there is a definite sense of realness and authenticity to be felt. Queer people are not a monolith, sure, but forming a community like the one they have in Hollywood manifests in social cues and phrases meant to be understood by those in the community. The Broken Hearts Club is a love story to queer friend groups, the good and the bad, as they navigate life outside of the social norms of a heterosexual America. There’s instances of tragedy, like death and drug use, but these tragic moments end up bringing the group together rather than splitting them apart.
I didn’t get a chance to chat with Greg Berlanti about his 2000s rom-com, but he has a huge career writing and directing both TV and film. He’s worked on Dawson’s Creek, some DC shows and movies like Arrow and Supergirl, and he even directed the 2018 gay teen rom-com Love, Simon. I definitely recommend The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy for fans of films about queer friend groups in the early 2000s.