“Broadway Damage” is an anachronistic throwback to the days when fresh-faced, lovably “kooky” young protagonists arrived in Manhattan to follow their dreams, make it in show-biz and find romance — as well as a great apartment, all on a shoestring budget. Only the fact that two lead characters are gay men suggests we’re in the 1990s, not stuck in some “That Girl” time warp. Lacking any hip edge or writing wit, pleasant but bland indie seriocomedy will have a tough time finding its niche.
Handsome Marc (Michael Shawn Lucas) and slightly nerdy, insecure Robert (Aaron Williams) are trying to break in as actors, though their auditions suggest community theater might be a more reasonable goal than the Great White Way. Marc’s former college pal Cynthia (Mara Hobel) has no working experience either, but she wants to be New Yorker publisher Tina Brown’s assistant, and will seemingly settle for nothing less.
Driven to scanning the obits for rental openings, Marc and Cynthia hit pay dirt with a spacious (and absurdly cheap) Village walk-up — which they get once former does a little physical bargaining with the sexy male building super. But Marc’s also looking for a “perfect 10” boyfriend, oblivious to the fact that Robert secretly pines for him. Marc does soon fall for neighbor David (Hugh Panaro), an aspiring “next Elton John” who says he’s “sort of breaking up” with his live-in boyfriend. But that proves the first in several relationship-dooming deceptions. Meanwhile, Robert keeps striking out in his efforts to find a romantic alternative, and Cynthia (who quickly tires of the sweet, if dim, b.f. she picks up) keeps spending her Long Island parents’ money while making no career headway.
This is the kind of movie where even the adorably cluttered flat’s resident rodent gets billing (as “Sammy”). The pervasive cuteness doesn’t quite grate, but neither does it achieve actual charm. Cable would be the logical destination for such vanilla romantic comedy — but broadcasters still shy from gay-themed pics sans name stars, and “Broadway Damage” is conversely too old-fashioned in its p.o.v. to invite much interest from gay theatrical auds.
The leads are ingratiating enough, though none can provide a depth the script left out. (Zaftig, shopping-obsessed, overeating Cynthia also treads too close to a stale “fag hag” cliche.) These characters don’t seem to have any other friends, yet they don’t appear to know one another very well, either — it would all make a lot more sense if there were a comic point to their being collectively not-so-bright. Yet trio’s lack of talent, intelligence and anything else distinguishing seems incidental here. They’re just nice — harmless, bland company for first-time feature writer-director Victor Mignatti’s two rather leisurely hours. Even the title’s allusion to those “damaged” by stereotypically gay show-tune addictions never leads toward any satirical fun.
Tech package is quite glossy on a modest budget, with bright, if conventional, lensing painting a Manhattan portrait even more sanitized than Woody Allen would dare. Songs “by” David are gooey MOR pop ballads with greeting-card lyrics; as with much else in “Broadway Damage,” they’re earnest syrup of a brand most contempo auds will find a bit hard to swallow.