Published Nov 01, 2000"The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy" is a fluffy, mainstream-friendly look at a group of 20-something gay friends living in West Hollywood. The circle of friends is at once an inviting surrogate family environment and a bitchy, self-absorbed, claustrophobic enclave housing Dennis (Timothy Olyphant), a waiter/photographer who begins to evaluate his friends and his lifestyle as his 28th birthday approaches, when he realises that his life revolves solely around being gay and talking about being gay; Cole (Dean Cain), a vapid pretty-boy actor who goes through men like kleenex and ends relationships with audition monologues; Howie (Matt McGrath), whose neuroses sabotage his perfectly good relationship with Marshall (Justin Theroux); Benji (Zach Braff), a vulnerable club kid whose quest for a boyfriend lands him with a dangerous crowd; Patrick (Ben Weber), whose average looks cannot compete in the superficial dating scene and whose lesbian sister wants him to father a child with her partner; Taylor (Billy Porter), the token black queen whose long term boyfriend's sudden departure leaves him devastated; and Kevin (Andrew Keegan), the "newbie" who is struggling with coming out of the closet. Jack (John Mahoney) is a parental figure to all the boys, running the restaurant they all work in and coaching their terrible softball team.
The movie is extremely predictable, as it sets up neat little obstacles for each and every member of the group to overcome by the end, making them all better people for it. It tries half-heartedly to deal with some "issues" of the gay scene, like the absurdly high standard of chiselled, gym-bodied attractiveness deemed necessary in the gay dating scene and the detrimental effects of the drug-addled club scene, while stubbornly avoiding any mention whatsoever of HIV and the AIDS virus. It also plays up on a number of gay stereotypes (they like Bette Midler and the Carpenters, they go to the gym all the time but can't play sports), but at the same time self-referentially pokes fun of traditional portrayal of gays in film as either dying of AIDS or playing a confidant to a straight woman. The material (showing "normal" gay people leading "normal" lives) is however not as groundbreaking as perhaps the filmmaker believes. Writer/director Greg Berlanti (whose place on the "Dawson's Creek" writing team explains this script's self-referential bent) pens one of the characters saying something to the effect of "Imagine if they made a movie about our group of friends?", ignoring films like "Jeffrey" and "Love! Valour! Compassion!" that have done pretty much just that already.
That said, the dialogue is fairly sharp and witty as the characters toss clever, catty barbs back and forth affectionately. The direction is appropriately playful, featuring Woody Allen-esque scene titles and quirky storytelling devices. The performances are uniformly above board, with Dean Cain's unabashedly shallow Cole stealing the show and John Mahoney lending a dignified presence with his portrayal of the aging Jack. All this contributes to a film that is light and fun, if not particularly substantial.