You have one chance to figure out what “Gayby” is about. If you said “gay baby,” ding ding ding, you got it! Or maybe it should be “baby with a gay,” but at any rate, “Gayby” treads the familiar narrative path of the contentious relationship between the single woman and her biological clock. Much like Madonna and Rupert Everett in “The Next Best Thing,” college buds Jenn and Matt (Jennifer Harris and Matthew Wilkas, real-life college buds -- check out their snapshots in the title sequence) decide to make a go of this whole babymaking business (yes, the old-fashioned way).
“Gayby” is a slight little comedy, definitely amusing enough while exploring well known territory. Director Jonathan Lisecki throws you into this world without a lot of intro to the characters, so it can take a moment to warm up to them, including the sassy effeminate bear Nelson (played by Lisecki himself), one of Matt’s BFFs. Matt is a decidedly non-stereotypical gay, a gentle comic book geek, but side characters like Nelson and Jenn’s friend Jamie (Jack Ferver) act as the Jacks to his Will. Their quips and puns are fast and furious, and it’s nigh impossible to not be drawn in by the wild and wacky Nelson, especially in his verbal sparring with Jamie.
While Jenn and Matt get up to babymaking, they are also trying to navigate the dating world in their own circles. Much of the humor between the two of them relies on awkward silence, reaction shots, heavy pauses and bizarre situations, while the side characters like Nelson and Jamie are funny in their heavy duty wordplay. This makes for some tonal inconsistencies, not allowing for a constant rhythm in which the audience can find a groove. The players involved are all comedic talents, most notably Harris, whose gifts in physical comedy are put to good use in her role as a loopy yoga teacher and in her athletic sexual trysts, with suitors played by Dulé Hill and Louis Cancelmi. Wilkas gets pushed into the straight man role, playing the voice of reason and the moral compass, while Jenn is the complete opposite.
The film follows a fairly standard formula and mixes drama into the comedy, especially when Jenn and Matt fall out over a possibly contested paternity. “Gayby” doesn’t quite go all the way to the dark side though, instead choosing to play the dark night of the soul, as it were, for laughs. Matt and Jenn mope around looking at baby clothes and pushing empty swings, like some kind of parody of one of those sadness montages in romantic comedies. Which, to be honest, is a kind of refreshing -- it’s such a generic, overplayed trope that to see it gently skewered is a relief.
“Gayby” isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a fun romp whose characters grow on you after spending some time with them. The film sort of assumes you’ll love them already going in, which isn’t necessarily true, but after awhile, they’re a fun bunch. “Gayby” is a slightly amusing, light-as-a-feather take on a well-trod tale. [B-]
This is a reprint of our review from the L.A. Film Festival.