- Movie Rating -

Partners (1982)

| April 30, 1982

What was the thinking here?  Partners is a silly buddy comedy about a series of murders in the gay community.  How is that funny in a social climate in which gays are, and have been, murdered in a homophobic rage?  Here just two years out from the murder of San Francisco’s first gay city supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978.  After Ron Krumpy murdered a group of gay men in front of a club in West Greenwich Village with a semi-automatic machine gun in 1980.  After Steve Charles was beaten to death in Newark in October of 1979.  Where was the potential for comedy?

I don’t mean to be such a downer, but I had these things running through my mind while Ryan O’Neil was running around in stupid, tight-fitting outfits trying to pose as a gay man to flush out a killer.  He plays Detective Sergeant Benson who is assigned to investigate a series of murders of gay men in Los Angelas.  His cover is to pose as the partner of Officer Kerwin (John Hurt) who slightly openly gay.  The joke on him is that he is quietly in the closet but the entire department knows that he’s gay.  Are you laughing yet?

The set up for their undercover word is, in a word, embarrassing.  Both Benson and Kerwin are given a lavender-colored car and matching jogging outfits and tight jeans.  You know, the kinds of stuff that homophobic white men assume that gay men would own.  They are required to engage in a volley of gay stereotypical behavior by throwing parties, acting limp-wristed and having dinner parties with gourmet meals.

The best I can say about this movie is that at least John Hurt has the courtesy to look humiliated in the middle of all of this.  I suspect that possibly he saw the serious nature of the material and tried to play through its low points with his dignity intact.  I sense that he wanted to play a character here.

The worst I can say is that this movie is, for gay men, it is as bad as any Stepin Fetchit routine, assuming the worse about them and portraying them as limp-wristed, lispy grab-asses who would leer over any straight man who came into their orbit.  With so much strong liberation going on in the gay community and with so much violent response coming from those who oppose them, this movie was really ill advised.  Who looked at this and thought it was suitable for a comedy?  It is embarrassing, and I was embarrassed to be there.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1982) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy