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Spoiler Alert

A common complaint about LGBTQ+ movies from LGBTQ+ people is that they always end tragically. The new dramedy "Spoiler Alert" doesn't break this mold, but given that it's based on the life story of TV journalist Michael Ausiello, it gets a pass. Besides, Ausiello does issue a warning up top that this tale will have a sad ending. At least, he does in the book: The title of his memoir is Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies at the End, shortened to "Spoiler Alert" for its movie adaptation. 

This is a nice film. A sweet film. A film you can watch with your mother-in-law. Jim Parsons from "The Big Bang Theory" stars in a sensitive performance as Michael, a shy pop-culture junkie who doesn't drink or do drugs and is emotionally guarded because of his traumatic past. Michael is grossed out by Grindr and timid about sex, which means he's a poor fit for the musky dance floors of the Manhattan gay-bar circuit. (Incidentally, he does get on quite well with his eventual mother-in-law, played here by Sally Field.) 

But it's on one of those dance floors, on a rare night out with a colleague from TV Guide, that Michael meets Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), the man who ends up being the love of his life. Kit has everything that Michael wishes he had: Confidence, cool friends, and a muscular physique. And yet, Kit is willing to wait for Michael to let down his emotional walls. Besides, Michael's not the only one with neuroses—Kit has baggage he has to work through if he and Michael are going to live the monogamously partnered life that Michael, in particular, seems to want. 

The chemistry between Parsons and Aldridge is easy and flirtatious, mainly when they engage in witty banter. And "Spoiler Alert" does a good job of showing the lovable side of both of these flawed, vulnerable characters. You can see how these two could fall so deeply for one another that they'd stick it out through the hardest of times, from ordinary spats about sex and commitment to the far more serious threats to Kit's health that drive the second half of the movie. (This is one of those dramedies that shifts from comedy to drama, instead of blending the two throughout the film.) 

The film is very honest about the struggles involved with long-term relationships and filled with true-to-life detail that could only have come from a memoir: Michael's obsession with Diet Coke and The Smurfs. Kit's love of smoking weed out of a tiny metal one-hitter and ever-present digital camera. (The film is set between the early '00s and mid-2010s.) The packaging of their love story is more generic, however, soundtracked by "Woah OH oh" handclap music and structured around Facebook posts and visits with Kit's parents. Director Michael Showalter does attempt one flight of surrealist fancy by inserting sequences from an imaginary sitcom based on Michael's childhood. But given that the best things about "Spoiler Alert" are its realistic characters and setting, these pivots into broad '80s archetypes never quite click. 

Showalter covered similar territory in 2017's "The Big Sick," which is also about a relationship (a heterosexual one this time) that's tested by a health crisis (only it's early in the courtship, rather than later on during a rough patch). That film was also based on a true story, but with a more fortunate outcome. In a media landscape where gay romances are rarely allowed the happy endings of straight ones, it's an inarguable fact that in these real people's real lives, the (presumed—she hasn't publicly stated otherwise) straight woman survived, but the gay man didn't, what do you do with that? Probably leave the question open (I'm certainly going to) and let "Spoiler Alert" be what it is: An effective PG-13 romantic tearjerker for mainstream audiences who are increasingly comfortable with LGBTQ+ content—a positive development, whether you're a "clubbing on a Wednesday" type or a "fall asleep on the couch watching 'Felicity'" one.

Now playing in theaters. 

Katie Rife

Katie Rife is a freelance writer and critic based in Chicago with a speciality in genre cinema. She worked as the News Editor of The A.V. Club from 2014-2019, and as Senior Editor of that site from 2019-2022. She currently writes about film for outlets like Vulture, Rolling Stone, Indiewire, Polygon, and RogerEbert.com.

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Film Credits

Spoiler Alert movie poster

Spoiler Alert (2022)

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use and thematic elements.

110 minutes

Cast

Jim Parsons as Michael Ausiello

Ben Aldridge as Kit Cowan

Sally Field as Marilyn

Josh Pais as Scott

Tara Summers as Mrs. Ausiello

Winslow Bright as Kelly Roswell

Allegra Heart as Franny

Sadie Scott as Kirby

Director

Writer (based on the book "Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies" by)

Writer

Cinematographer

Editor

Composer

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