Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Released this week on DVD: "Breakfast with Scot"

Grade: C

In Breakfast With Scot, an effeminate 11-year-old boy who loves boas, beads and Broadway musicals is taken in by a semi-closeted gay male couple, Eric (Tom Cavanagh) and Sam (Ben Shenkman), after his mother dies of a drug overdose. That mother was the common-law wife of Sam's wastrel brother, Billy, who has left for Brazil promising to return and leaving the boy, Scot (Noah Bernett), in the custody of child services.

Because Eric is a former hockey star turned sportscaster, the presence in his home of an auburn-haired girlie-boy with a flouncing gait and a fondness for Christmas carols threatens his masculine self-image, not to mention his reputation as a macho sports hero.

For its courage to address a ticklish subject with warmhearted humor, Breakfast With Scot, adapted from a novel by Michael Downing, deserves a light round of applause. In the novel the couple are a chiropractor and an editor at an Italian art magazine in Cambridge, Mass. The movie, directed by Laurie Lynd from a screenplay by Sean Reycraft, changes their occupations and moves the story to Toronto (Eric's former team is the Maple Leafs).

Breakfast With Scot is really an extended sitcom in the Will and Grace mode. Eric and Sam, a sports lawyer, might as well be straight roommates for all the affection they display, even when alone. The impulsive little peck that Eric dares to plant on Sam's lips at a party late in the movie comes across more as an expression of terror than as a sign of his imminent liberation from internalized homophobia.

What makes Eric's situation more confusing is that his colleagues in broadcasting all know he is gay. Eric even admits that during his years as a professional player he was nicknamed Erica. Yet elsewhere the charade of ignorance and denial continues for as long as he encourages it.

Cavanagh gives a convincing performance as a frightened man trying to be cool by tolerating behavior that raises his hackles. He doesn't begin to bond with Scot until he discovers that the boy can skate. At last he can both play surrogate father and demonstrate traditional manhood by channeling the boy's twirling and dipping figure-skating talent toward hockey.

Sam observes Eric's inner drama with raised eyebrow. But beyond being the common-sensical domestic partner, Shenkman's thankless role is that of the supportive spouse, a male Myrna Loy pouring oil on troubled waters.

The bulk of the movie's heavy lifting falls to Bennett, an endearing young actor who imbues Scot with a cheeky I-am-what-I-am attitude toward his temporary surrogate parents and his persecuting peers. He knows that Eric and Sam are gay but doesn't really know what gay means. Whether Scot is homosexual beneath his mannerisms is left open to question.

Sam believes Scot's fondness for dressing up in his mother's clothes and jewels and donning make-up is an unconscious expression of his grief and loneliness, a way of staying by her side. It is the most original notion in a small, good-hearted move that wouldn't hurt a fly.

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