Review: 'Spoiler Alert' a Heartening, Poignant Gay Romance

by Megan Kearns

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday December 2, 2022

Ben Aldridge and Jim Parsons in "Spoiler Alert"
Ben Aldridge and Jim Parsons in "Spoiler Alert"  

When you fall in love, you may imagine your long life together and all the milestones ahead. But what happens when one of you is diagnosed with cancer?

Starring gay actors Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge as Mike and Kit, "Spoiler Alert" is filled with tender, heartening moments. Despite its tragic narrative, the film often feels like a romantic comedy. Mike and Kit feel like a real couple with real problems and real love and affection for each other.

Out gay writers Dan Savage and David Marshall Grant wrote the screenplay, which is based on Michael Ausiello's memoir "Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies at the End." Director Michael Showalter returns to familiar terrain, as he also directed "The Big Sick," another film about a couple's world rocked by illness.

The film opens with Mike and Kit both lying in a hospital bed. Mike narrates, "Our story wasn't supposed to end like this. But then, you were the plot twist I never saw coming." They met 14 years ago.

Mike is an entertainment journalist with a penchant for television (he loves "Felicity" and "The Smurfs"). He imagines his childhood as a 1980s sitcom, complete with scenes and a laugh track. Mike, staunchly not dancing, meets Kit, a photographer, at a gay club. They banter with an immediate connection.

Self-conscious about his body, Mike doesn't want to take his shirt off when they're about to have sex. So instead they talk about coming out. Mike knew he was gay in the fifth grade. Kit still hasn't told his parents because it took a long time for him to accept it himself. Later, when Kit is in the hospital for appendicitis, he asks Michael to "de-gay" his apartment when his parents visit. Sally Field is great as Kit's mom.

As their relationship progresses, they share how they're both scared to fall in love with each other. A montage of Christmas card photos conveys the passage of time, and of Michael and Kit's relationship over the years, which feels evocative of a rom-com.

13 years into their relationship, Kit is diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer. In an '80s sitcom-esque flashback, Kit's tumor reminds Mike of his mom's cancer diagnosis. While the couple was dealing with romantic challenges, Kit's cancer brings them closer together as they face the illness.

Jim Parsons deftly conveys awkwardness, humor, and self-consciousness. But in scenes requiring intensity, his emotions lack authenticity, feeling forced and fake. This is most apparent in a scene where Mike yells at a nurse to get Kit a bed in the hospital, when they're going to make him sit to get his treatment. Ben Aldridge gives a great performance: He exudes charisma and, seemingly effortlessly, conveys a wide range of emotions.

Both Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge are gay actors portraying gay characters. This shouldn't be groundbreaking, yet, in a time when numerous straight actors portray gay characters — including in the film "Supernova," another romance about a gay couple facing illness, starring Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci — it's incredibly refreshing to see, and it's important representation.

Mike wanted "a picture-perfect love story," but life had other plans. He eventually appreciates that their love story is "real."

It can be incredibly frustrating that so many queer films have tragic endings. Life is filled with a spectrum of experiences, including tragedy, but we need films about queer joy. Yet, it's also important to see films about queer couples facing obstacles together.

Does knowing about a story's tragic ending make it sadder or more impactful? For some films, knowing spoilers may unravel or detract the watching experience. But for many good films, knowing what's coming can enhance the experience, heightening tension or poignancy. Seeing the end at the beginning casts a shadow over the film, tinging the tender moments with bittersweet melancholy.

Despite knowing where "Spoiler Alert" was headed, I hoped I was wrong, that somehow Mike and Kit would indeed have a happy ending. But that's not the point of the film, nor, I suppose, of real life. What matters is cherishing the precious time we have with our loved ones.

"Spoiler Alert" opens in select theaters Friday, December 2, 2022 and nationwide Friday, December 16, 2022.