Over the past few years, the idea of the traditional “nuclear family” has changed from a father, a mother, and 2.5 kids to any number of variations from two dads to two moms to a mom and two dads. Televisions shows like Modern Family and next season’s The New Normal have embraced this idea and show audiences on a weekly basis that no matter who makes up a family, at the end of the day, love is love. Gayby tells the story of a woman (“hag since birth” Jenn, played with aplomb by Jenn Harris) and her gay best friend Matt (Matthew Wilkas) who would both like to have a child and decide to do so together. Instead of going the ol’ turkey baster route (at least at first), the two agree to do it the “old fashioned way” to create their gayby.
With Matt finding himself recently out of a long-term relationship and (unsuccessfully) getting back into the dating scene, both he and equally-single Jenn decide to try online dating. Things are made only more complicated when Jenn is forced to move in with Matt while her apartment is being painted, by her boss’ brother Louis (Louis Cancelmi) no less. As Jenn and Matt try and find new romantic relationships for themselves, they never stop their quest to have a baby together. After weeks of trying, the pregnancy test comes back positive, but thanks to their accelerated dating lives (and a box of expired condoms), things become even more complicated.
Filled with colorful and hilarious characters (including writer/director Jonathan Lisecki himself as sassy Nelson) there is no shortage of laughs here as Jenn and Matt deliver (ha!) the heart. Girls fans will be excited to see Adam Driver (as one of Matt’s friends, Neil) and Alex Karpovsky (as one of Jenn’s failed dates, Peter) acting as near versions of their Girls’ characters with Neil a starry-eyed romantic and Peter as an up-front realist. While some of the more over-the-top characters could be considered caricatures, Lisecki keeps things balanced by making both Jenn and Matt level-headed (if slightly lost) individuals who each have a sassy gay side kick to play off of (and the moment those two side-kicks encounter one another is one of the best scenes in the film.)
Lisecki smartly makes the film about more than just having a baby as Jenn and Matt both work to fulfill their career and relationship aspirations at the same time rather than unrealistically (and misguidedly) putting their lives on hold for the singular hope of creating a new one. While some of their decisions may seem naïve and short-sighted, both Jenn and Matt are always honest with themselves and each other and prove that is what it truly takes to be a family.
Life is complicated, but so are relationships, and Gayby proves that with good friends, laughter, and being honest about what you really want, anything is possible. And there is no harm (at least not too much) in having a little fun along the way.
The Upside: An incredibly funny look at modern relationships and families from a distinct voice that proves you do not need to follow “the rules” or other people’s preconceived notions to find love, happiness, and fulfillment.
The Downside: The scenes with Jenn’s sister Kelly (Anna Margaret Hollyman) seemed a bit out of place and ended up slowing down the narrative rather than helping to move it along. While it is Kelly who provides the catalyst that forces Jenn to get her life back on track, even that pivotal moment felt out of step from the tone and pacing of the rest of the film.
On the Side: Harris was not the original choice to play Jenn, but when the original actress had to drop out of the project, Lisecki cast her since she and Wilkas are actually best friends in real life making their chemistry together on screen all the more natural and honest.