Bedrooms and Hallways (1998): Directed by Rose (Go Fish) Troche (LGBTQ Cinema–Gay)

“Bedrooms and Hallways,” Rose Troche’s follow-up to her groundbreaking lesbian comedy “Go Fish” (1994), is not a sophomore jinx but it is quite a disappointing film.  Her rambling and diffuse serio comedy may be a result of the fact that she didn’t write the scenario and/or that it concerns British subculture and mores.

Thematically, but not stylistically, the film is linked to Troche’s impressive debut in dealing with the issue of sexuality, in this case both hetero and gay, showing its inherently fluid, unstable nature.

Scripted by Robert Farrar, “Bedrooms and Hallways” benefits from a gifted ensemble of up-and-coming actors, such as Kevin McKidd, James Purefoy, Tom Hollander, Julie Graham, as well as vet thespians like Simon Callow and Aussie Hugo Weaving.

Kevin McKidd plays Leo, an openly gay man about to turn 30. When the story begins, Leo comes home to find a surprise birthday party organized by his roommates Darren (Tom Hollander) and Angie (Julie Graham). Burdened with troubled history with some of the guests, he hides in his bedroom, feeling grumpy and way too old for his age.

In an extended flashback, we learn that Leo’s colleague had encouraged him to attend a weekly men’s group session run by New Age leader Keith (Simon Callow), who’s happily married to Sybil (Harriet Walter). Meeting there the handsome Irishman Brendan (James Purefoy), Leo develops a crush on. Not surprisingly in such stories, it turns out that Brendan is straight, living with former girlfriend Sally (Jennifer Ehle), who “just happened” to be Leo’s high-school sweetheart.

A series of therapy sessions leads Brendan and Leo to cultivate a friendship, which evolves in unexpected ways, when Brendan shows up one night at Leo’s place and sleeps with him. As expected, the new bond has differential effects on the group’s members, encouraging Terry (Con O’Neill), for example, to explore his “true” sexuality.

Troche and her writer expand the comedy’s range by including Darren and real estate agent Jeremy (Hugo Weaving), who gets a kick out of having wild sex (with handcuffs and blindfolds) in houses intended for sale. Not surprisingly, the couple is caught and eventually splits up.

Meanwhile, Leo gets close to Sally, and after kissing her, he leaves in a state of panic and guilt. Deep in a quandary, he confesses to Sally that he is the one who’s seeing Brendan; Sally had thought it was Leo’s roommate Angie.

The story then returns to the party, where Brendan and Terry get into an argument over Leo. In the end, Leo’s colleague and Angie get together, Jeremy and Darren make up, and Leo go to bed with Sally sans much guilt.

The title, “Bedrooms and Hallways,” promises a sophisticated comedy in the manner of Noel Coward, but instead what we get is a picture that’s only one notch above middlebrow television fare, burdened by psychobabble dialogue. The bunch of youngster are so self-absorbed in their identity crises that they cease to be engaging shortly after being introduced.

The direction by Troche, who I am led to believe accepted this task as a gun for hire, is just as mediocre and rambling as the narrative, lacking definition and style.

End Note

The film is notable for bringing together actors on the cusp of breaking out into high-profile careers. McKidd became a leading man in films such as “Topsy-Turvy,” “Anna Karenina” on PBS, Nicholas Nickleby, De-Lovely and HBO’s mini-series, “Rome.” Purefoy later played starring roles in “Mansfield Park” (1999), “Vanity Fair” (2004) and was cast as Marc Anthony in “Rome.” Hugo Weaving was already established after his leading turn in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” in 1994, and “Babe,” in 1995 (as Rex the Sheepdog). The year after “Bedrooms and Hallways,” he played bigger roles in “The Matrix” movies and “The Lord of the Rings.” Hollander appeared in Altman’s “Gosford Park” and “Pride and Prejudice,” and co-starred with Bill Nighy in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”