December 9, 2022 / Universal Pictures Canada
Starring: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, Ben Irwin
Directed By: Michael Showalter
Based on Michael Ausiello’s best-selling memoir “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies,” the film is a heartwarming, funnyand life-affirming story of how Michael and Kit’s relationship is transformed and deepened when one of them falls ill.
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Spoiler Alert plays out exactly how you expect a romance film featuring a terminal illness to, but it is the incredible romantic chemistry between Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge that inject the film with a heart that sweeps you up in the story.
I am an absolute sucker for a good romance, especially if it is one where one of the lovers is dying of an illness, having rewatched The Fault in Our Stars, Moulin Rouge!, and Breathe countless times despite knowing that there is no happy ending in sight for the characters. But that is part of life, and what this subgenre of the romance genre does so well is capturing the beauty of life and how important it is to live every moment to the fullest as you never know when it will end. So even though I know I will most likely end up heartbroken by the end of the film, I will still watch it despite there not being much new ground to be covered in the genre.
This story is based on the real life relationship between Michael Ausiello and Kit Cown, portrayed by Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge respectively, bringing another LGBQT+ story to the big screen, championing diversity in storytelling that Hollywood has been lacking in. The first half of the film focuses on the meet cute between Michael and Kit and the blossoming of their relationship, while the second half focuses on the cancer diagnosis that sets their relationship on a path that neither ever imagined it would. It spends its time developing these two men for the audience, creating imperfect characters full of flaws and struggles that the audience can root for to find love while growing a true connection to the characters.
Whether it be Michael’s struggle to open himself up to the possibility of love or Kit’s sharing his true self with his loved ones, there is an emotional journey for our characters beyond their blossoming romance. So by the time that cancer is introduced to the story, it tugs on your heart strings as you have spent half of the film growing to love Michael, Kit and their relationship, only to face the tragic truth that this is not going to end well for them. At this point, the screenplay follows the template for the genre for the most part, though the framing of the story through a sitcom episode does provide a new and unique lens for the emotional sucker punch of the story to be conveyed. There is no denying that this film will tug on your heart strings, but it did not leave me crying or emotionally gutted like I expected it to, which allows it to remain a touching love story and a loving tribute to the real men behind the story.
But it is the performances that bring the film to life. Parsons and Aldridge are excellent as Michael and Kit, crafting a tender and beautiful romance between their characters. Both of them bring a vulnerability to their roles, allowing the relationship that you experience on screen to feel authentic as neither of the actors shy away from the negative personalities of their characters, which allows the beautiful aspects of them to be emphasized. Being openly gay men, seeing them portray gay characters on screen is great as they never exaggerate but are authentically themselves, though it is Parsons who steals the show with the more dramatic role of Michael who is struggling with his partner’s diagnosis. The screenplay provides Parsons with the bigger moments, though Aldridge has some truly excellent and quiet moments where he steals the film, most notably when his character comes out to his parents.
Though, my favourite performance is without question Sally Field who portrays Kit’s mother Marilyn. Field is full of energy as she portrays this overbearing and deeply caring mother. Her character could have come off as harsh and self centered, but Field infuses her with an undying love that only a mother can possess, which warms your heart whenever she is on screen despite Marilyn’s overbearing personality traits. She is great with Aldridge, but it’s her moments with Parsons where the two of them shine as they work through their complex emotions they both have given Kit’s diagnosis. And while his role is a lot quieter, Bill Irwin is great as Kit’s father and rounds out a truly wonderful family unit.
Guiding this film from start to finish is director Michael Showalter, who carefully navigates the romance and terminal illness, finding the perfect balance to create a crowd pleasing film that tugs the perfect amount on the heart strings. It comes as no surprise that Showalter handles the material so poignantly, having directed 2017’s The Big Sick which deals with similar subject matter, displaying that he truly understands the human story at the heart of the film and does not need to distract the audience with scenes showing Aldridge’s sickness from cancer to evoke an emotional response.
Even though you know where Spoiler Alert is going from the outset, there is so much to enjoy about this film as it wraps itself around the audience like a warm hug, that is certain to delight audiences this holiday season. Thanks to Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge and Sally Field’s great performances, Spoiler Alert is guaranteed to tug on the heart strings as this beautiful yet heartbreaking true love story is translated to the big screen, which is one I can easily recommend without hesitation.