By Gregg Shapiro
Living, as we do, in a post-“Love, Simon” (and post-“Call Me By Your Name”) world, gay movies with younger male lead characters may forever be judged differently. That can be both good and bad.
In the case of writer/director Mike Roma’s “Dating My Mother” (Gravitas Ventures), it falls squarely in the middle. Twenty-three-year-old Danny (Patrick Reilly, making his feature film debut), who has ambitions of being a screenwriter, has returned to New Jersey after living in California after graduation. He’s temporarily moved in with his widowed, hairdresser mother Joan (Steppenwolf and Law & Order actress Kathryn Erbe) while supposedly working on a script on spec.
Danny and Joan have a sweet relationship and do many things together, from going to the movies to walking the dogs to attending parties. At one of those parties, Danny runs into old, straight high school friend Khris (Michael Rosen). Danny isn’t just an undisciplined writer, he also has no self-control when it comes to wine or pot; a source of conflict between him and his mother.
After getting hit on by one of the party guests, Joan decides to re-enter the dating pool and sets up an account on match.com. This inspires Danny to explore some the gay dating/hook-up sites. The fantasy sequences in which Danny interacts with some of the online guys he’s interested in are definitely the comedic highlights of the movie.
Joan, who is having more luck than Danny interacting with guys online, ends up meeting and falling for a guy named Chester (an almost unrecognizable James Le Gros). Meanwhile, Joan’s best friend Lisa (the always wonderful Kathy Najimy) is having relationship trouble with an unfaithful boyfriend.
Danny, on the other hand is in something of a downward spiral. He doesn’t enjoy his part time job at the library. His writer’s block is causing him frustration. Then he gets the bad news that the series he was hoping to write for is going with different writers altogether.
Predictably, the increased time that Danny spends with Khris leads to an awkward kiss moment that completely backfires. Making matters worse, Danny and Joan are constantly at each other, resulting in a harsh exchange of words and Joan’s hurt feelings.
Will Danny get his shit together or run the risk of forever alienating his mother and friend? By the time Danny meets Richard (Paul Iacono) at the writer’s group that meets at the library and tell him about his screenplay about a mother and son navigating the world of online dating (get it?), you may actually find yourself rooting for him, after all.
Even without the star power or thoughtfulness behind “Simon” or “Name”, “Dating My Mother” is still a pleasant distraction. Rating: C+