Warner Archive awesomely illustrates the positive evolution of Hollywood films regarding gay-themed stories with the November 7, 2017 DVD release of the 1997 dramedy "Love! Valour! Compassion!"
As the text on the DVD back cover notes, the secret to Terrence McNally bringing his Tony-winning play to the rainbow screen is reuniting the band back and having Jason Alexander join the group as stereotypical middle-aged queen Buzz, whose quirks include believing that virtually every celebrity is gay.
The warranted comparisons to "Golden Pond" and "The Big Chill" prove a primary point of "Love!" and other modern films centered around homosexual characters; boys who like other boys (and girls who like other girls) have the same highs and lows as everyone else. The biggest difference (especially until the recent past) is that estrangement from relatives, the AIDS crisis, and remnants of discrimination that include marriage inequality contributed to gay men like those in the play bonding in groups such as the one around which the film centers.
Gregory is the center of the group in that he is their common thread and owns the country house in New York state where they gather over Memorial Day, July Fourth, and Labor Day one summer. Gregory is a successful middle-aged choreographer and is the partner of younger and cuter blind legal assistant Bobby.
The standout in the cast is John Glover ("Smallville"), who plays aptly surnamed twins John and James Jeckyll. Accompanist pianist John is the unlikable pity friend of the group. He primarily is invited along out of sympathy for not having any place else to go for Memorial Day weekend. His bringing along hunky 20-something Latino dancer boyfriend Roman, who is not shy about stripping down to skinny dip and sunbathe, likely plays a role in this pair returning for the other two weekends.
Kind and gentle AIDS patient James Jeckyll comes on the scene on the Fourth of July; his sweet nature and strong contrasts with his brother quickly earns him the hearts of the gang; this leads to an unlikely (but tender) relationship with incestuous elements.
The remaining boys in the band are long-term couple/business consultants Arthur and Perry.
The Memorial Day weekend sets the stage (no pun intended) for much of the drama to come. The largest theme is the AIDS crisis, which divides the gay community as much as it does this group. Some members feel that it is important to discuss this, and others want to pretend that this horrible disease does not exist. The positive members of the group fear what is to come, and those who are negative still dread the worst.
Everyone in the group regularly thinks of people whom they have lost. An powerful aspect of all these elements is a character expressing resentment toward monogamous couple Arthur and Perry being spared the disease and these men responding in kind.
This weekend also involves an illicit tryst with a highly symbolic act related to the practicality of crying.
The second act over July 4th lets the audience and the characters catch up on the developments (including fall-out from Memorial Day) of the roughly six months since their last gathering. This also involves Bobby experiencing trauma to which most people can relate.
The end-of-summer third act includes much more symbolism as we learn a great deal about the fates of the men and they essentially cleanse their sins.