My first tear fell while watching ‘Looking The Movie’ when Patrick shows up on screen in a taxicab looking at the Sam Francisco skyline as the taxicab driver asks hi, “Are you glad to be back?” Patrick doesn’t answer for an instant, and Groff is shown with a stare that conveys every emotion we all feel – yes we are glad to be back, we are glad to see Patrick again, but we know it will be very hard to say goodbye, yet we know we must be strong enough to do it.
But yes, Patrick is back. He is a bit slimmer and has a new haircut (“short on the sides,” Richie, his barber and, coincidentally, ex tells him) He is also more mature, more self aware, more sex-positive. But make no mistake, he still has baggage, emotional, and if you weren’t in tune to it yet, in the first couple of scenes, he lugs around his wheely whole bar hopping in San Francisco. He needs to round up his life, take stock of it while reconnecting with friends, and maybe his loves. A one night stand (Michael Rosen) convinces him that he should see Kevin (Russell Tovey) because “you have to bury your dead real good, so they don’t come back to haunt you.”
And then we learn what happened. Patrick just up and left Kevin, running away scared because he was just so sure it would have never worked out, that Kevin would never have been monogamous. Then we see how Kevin was shocked and hurt by all of it, telling Patrick “It would have been nice to try.” It is a very powerful moment, a realization of what the old Patrick was like – perhaps too selfish, breaking hearts left and right. Again Groff here is fantastic, registering shock, acceptance, showing how he felt his love for Kevin all at the same time. Tovey’s performance was jarring, showing unexpected vulnerability where you least expect it.
Looking was marketed as perhaps the answer to ‘Girls,’ gay-wise. It never lived up to that, because in its heart it was never really a gay0centric show. Looking is more about characters milling about their lives, exploring intimacies between friends and lovers. There’s a scene with Patrick and Dom (Murray Bartlett) that plays upon fans’ reaction tot he chemistry between the two characters. We do see, though, how the characters react to the advancement of gay rights since the show started. There’s a wedding that is the heart of Patrick’s visit, and there’s a particular scene that made me shed buckets of tears, as Patrick looks at a older gay couple getting married, and then hearing they have been together for 45 years. There is too much emotion floating in y heart seeing how their love is finally celebrated.
But let’s not fool ourselves – we want to know if Richie (Raul Castillo) and Patrick get back together, and throughout the movie, it gets a build-up. I think you can probably guess what happens next, but before that come a scene that will haunt me for the rest of my life. Patrick tells his friends to dance, and tells them he will see them after he goes to the rest room. he comes out, and sees everyone paired off, and him alone. That scene just rips me – it asks what do we do when everyone has partnered, and the music is still playing, and you are still alone. I am turning fifty soon, and I ask myself – do I still dance, or do I just make a graceful exit from the dance floor. Do I wait for the last song to finish, or do I stand outside before everyone leaves. It’s a painful bittersweet reflection of where I am in my life right now, and asking the question breaks me. But it also reminds me to see the bigger, greater picture, and as the camera pans out on Castro Street for the last time with these characters, I know that even though *my* answers aren’t quite here yet, it just feels good to ask the question.