Spoiler Alert Review: Jim Parsons' Queer Love Story Is Quietly Devastating
  • Dec. 7, 2022 3:00 pm EST

Is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? This is the core question of "Spoiler Alert," the queer romantic drama and biographical film, adapted from the memoir "Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies" by Michael Ausiello. Jim Parsons stars as Michael, a dorky TV writer (ouch — I'm in this film and I don't like it) who, thanks to a chance encounter, meets the love of his life, Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge). As the relationship grows, the two encounter the kinds of problems unique to members of the gay community. It's all very sweet, but there's a catch: The very first scene of the film tells us Kit dies in the end. 

The film was directed by Michael Showalter, who is probably best known for writing and starring in "Wet Hot American Summer" and directing "The Big Sick" and last year's "The Eyes of Tammy Faye." Showalter is someone to look out for on the indie scene: "Spoiler Alert" was very well crafted, full of thoughtfully composed shots that draw the audience into the characters' inner lives. The movie's visuals enhance the subtleties of its screenplay, written by David Marshall Grant and Dan Savage, with the kind of mise en scène that says a lot with very little.

"Spoiler Alert" explores the beauty in Michael and Kit's love story, regardless of the tragic conclusion. It agrees with Alfred Lord Tennyson that, despite what sorrow or heartache may come, the experience of loving someone is, ultimately, worth it — come what may. Michael is no stranger to grief; he lost both of his parents when he was young, with his beloved mother's death from cancer being particularly traumatic. Yet, he's resilient. Audiences get a strong sense of who Michael is, which makes his relationship with Kit all the more relatable.

Jim Parsons is a problematic lead in Spoiler Alert

Clearly, "Spoiler Alert" was a passion project for star Jim Parsons. Talking with Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show," the actor described how much he related to Ausiello — the two men are roughly the same age and both found love in New York City in the 2000s. Perhaps that's why Parsons seems so comfortable and genuine in the role. It's a charming turn for the actor, best known as socially stunted genius Sheldon Cooper on "The Big Bang Theory": Parsons has excellent comedic timing, and there are a few laugh-out-loud moments in the film that he absolutely nails. What's more, the love scenes between Michael and Kit in "Spoiler Alert" are honest and deeply heartfelt — they're clumsy and awkward and sweet in the way that dalliances between new lovers often are. When Michael and Kit first say "I love you," those words have weight.  

Unfortunately, not everything in Parsons' performance works, and he is undeniably the weak link in an otherwise captivating drama. Part of the issue is simply the actor's appearance: He's significantly older than the man he's playing. Much of "Spoiler Alert" focuses on how Michael and Kit met, and that happened roughly twenty years ago. No amount of vaseline on the lens is going to make Jim Parsons look like he's 30 years old, and it's distracting that he appears so much older than he's acting. He also just doesn't quite fit at times — there's a gangly unease to Parsons onscreen. This hurts his onscreen chemistry with Sally Field in particular, which undermines what should be very moving scenes between Michael and his mother-in-law, Marilyn. When his character is supposed to be uncomfortable and insecure it's fine, but the moments when Michael loosens up are really demanding an actor with more innate charisma. 

More 2SLGBTQ+ movies, please

When "Brokeback Mountain" debuted in 2005, it really challenged the industry to push queer cinema into the mainstream. Sure, we've had other major, award-winning Hollywood films since that focus on 2SLGBTQ+ stories — "Milk," "Blue is the Warmest Color," "Call Me By Your Name," etc. — but those still tend to be arthouse cinema. Heck, the Judd Apatow 2022 rom-com "Bros" struggled in the box office despite strong reviews, and was review-bombed on IMDb. We need movies like "Spoiler Alert" to normalize gay relationships on the big screen. Sure, queer identity is a big part of who Michael and Kit are, but the movie's not about the "tragedy" or struggles of being born gay — it celebrates the 2SLGBTQ+ community instead, and focuses on telling a really relatable story of love and loss. 

Despite some flaws — like the problems with Parsons' performance and some uneven pacing — "Spoiler Alert" is a moving, beautiful love story that transcends its "niche" subject-matter; this isn't just a queer love story, its a human love story, and you don't need to be a cisgender gay white man from New York City to relate. The result is beautifully, quietly devastating. I cried, and from what I could tell, there was a dry eye in the house. 

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10