Spoiler Alert!

Where I Watched It: Peacock

English Audio Description?: Yes

I wonder if there are any other critics who find it odd that not only did I just watch a movie about Michael Ausiello, but now I have to write a review about it. The possibility that one day, someone might play Roger Ebert in a biopic has crossed my mind, but it’s Ausiello who made it to the screen first. For those who don’t devour entertainment, Ausiello is an entertainment journalist with a focus on writing about television. I have been a big fan of TVLine since the beginning, and Ausiello and his columns were such a big part of my daily absorption of TV news and recaps. And when the film got to the Smurfs…. I laughed. Because I remember Michael always talking about his collection whenever it seemed like it could fit into a conversation, or just having a Smurf around in a video.

What I never really knew was this relationship he had with his partner, and how his life changed when he found out that his real life best friend, someone without channels or a remote control, someone who can’t be surprisingly revived in a soapy cliffhanger twist, was terminal. I do remember when his partner passed, and it was such a reminder that while you might read their columns or reviews, we know so little about the personal lives of so many of our favorite journalists and bloggers. I remember fairly recently the passing of Nikki Finke, the founder of Deadline, and seeing a career much bigger than I had actually ever known, reaching so many people.

For michael to share his life, and his partners life with us, not just in the book on which this movie is based, but also in this film is something special for me on a very specific level. I appreciate what this film is, and what it means for michael to be able to have this venue to share his story. Jim Parsons is excellent casting as michael, and the rest of the cast all do their best in this film.It’s a solid look at a relationship, its evolution, and ultimate end.

But I can’t say I was absolutely blown away, or that this is the most unique thing I’ve ever seen. While the film attempts to differentiate itself by having these moments where Michael imagines his life as an 80’s multi-cam sitcom, complete with Tara Summers (who i feel like Michael vouched for and demanded her casting), the standard beats here have been used so many times before in gay romances and dramas that the most refreshing element of the film is cancer. I know that sounds terrible, but I feel like I’ve seen this film a dozen times already, and the difference here is that the hero dies at the end from cancer, and not HIV/AIDS.

Michael’s film almost does a lot to further what a gay lead film can do in 2022, by subverting the need to have a partner that dies of AIDS, and instead dies of something people are lying in hospitals all across this country dying from every day. Cancer is as common as a car accident, or a heart attack, and it’s not a platform. It’s not a movie that is trying to make a statement. Straight films have characters in romantic relationships who die from typical things all the time, so why doesn’t Spoiler Alert feel special? Because in 2022, we might finally be at a point where we aren’t so immediately reductive, and not only does this film feel like we’ve seen it before as one partner battles cancer, but we’ve seen so many same sex relationships across media, that the initial shock of even that is gone. Hell, Jim Parsons has been a part of this himself, delivering a terrific performance in The Normal Heart, as well as The boys In The Band.

It’s a good film, but it doesn’t quite find that extra special something that breaks it out of the pack. It also was buried in the middle of Oscar season for some inexplicable reason. Spoiler Alert would have been better off opening in September, and trying to gain buzz before the season had truly begun, and before most of this years nominees had been seen. Then, it could have convinced the world it was Oscar bait, and perhaps drawn a few more eyes in. Look at the box office to The Woman King, a September release with a high Rotten Tomato score, and no Oscar nominations. But it certainly made the most out of the “what if”, by starting its campaign in September.

I love Michael Ausiello, and I wanted to be able to put this at the top of my list, but all I can come away with is that it is pretty good, but lacks the ability to break away from so many other films that have come before it, and have already blazed the path clear for Spoiler Alert to follow. The acting is great, and Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge have chemistry, but I just can’t shake this feeling that I’ve seen this before.

Final Grade: B+

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