You’ve seen this movie before: Two men from opposite backgrounds forge an almost romantic bond under pressure. Strong performances help overcome hackneyed aspects of Robert Lenski’s otherwise thoughtful script, though, making for an ultimately fulfilling two hours.
Brutish ex-con Jim Flynn (Randy Quaid) is assigned educated and socially privileged Bill Thomas (Eric Stoltz) as his roommate in a Seattle AIDS hospice.
Thomas is gay, and Flynn is a homophobe who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion.
By the end of the film, the two have discovered common ground — their fathers’ reluctance to face the circumstances, for instance.
One (it doesn’t much matter which) dies, his now-enlightened former antagonist delivering a noble eulogy at the funeral.
Main characters aren’t subtly drawn: Flynn is a blue-collar bar-fighter who watches basketball on TV and whose clothes would be considered grungy even by Seattle standards, while Thomas writes applications for government grants, plays classical music on the piano, reads vintage literature, dresses well, is a tennis fan and thinks of salad as a meal.
Telefilm would be a lot more interesting if the characters swapped these traits, or if the two actors switched roles — anything to make it less by-the-numbers. But as it stands Quaid and Stoltz perform at high standard — though if he gets any grumpier in his portrayals, Quaid threatens to become the next Walter Matthau.
Elizabeth Pena turns in a strong supporting perf as a social worker, and it’s nice to see Charles Durning in a straight dramatic role, as Flynn’s father.
Director Alan Metzger keeps things running smoothly, capitalizing on witty situations including a scene in which Flynn dresses down a women’s club member (Janie Woods-Morris) who would likely condemn Dana Carvey’s Church Lady as too liberal. Remaining tech credits are above par for Canadian shoots.