A dramedy is a genre that’s so tricky to pull off. The ability to make a comedy that has emotional pull and include a “pull my finger” joke can be tough. Many times the audience dismisses such an effort with a blanket “that’s not funny” response the experience. During the ’80s and early ’90s, Australia produced several films that was able to achieve this balancing act including Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. In 1995, Paul Rudnick (In and Out & Addam’s Family Values) adapted his play Jeffrey to the screen. The work attempted to find a touch of humor in the middle of AIDS crisis. This is a not a safe place to set a comedy. While this could have been disaster of “Who thought this was funny” proportions, Jeffrey makes you ponder why there aren’t any other movies that can achieve this balancing act.
Jeffrey (Wings‘ Steven Weber) is an actor in New York City who spends most of his time working as a waiter at events while between casting calls. He enjoys his wild life hooking up with guys around Manhattan, but quickly gets turned off as fear of AIDS has overwhelmed any chance to enjoy the carnality. This leads him to declare that he’s going to be chaste and not give into any relationships. He’s single, focused and not getting laid. This new outlook on life immediately gets put to the test when he meets Steve (The Pretender‘s Michael T. Weiss). This is his Mr. Right. At first Jeffrey tries to stick to his vow, but he keeps crossing paths with Steve. He turns to his pal Sterling (Star Trek: The Next Generations‘ Patrick Stewart) to figure out what to do although that scares him too since Sterling’s partner Darius (Mad Men‘s Bryan Batt) is dealing with AIDS. Because in the end, what scares Jeffrey more than catching a lethal STD is being involved with people who are dying. Can he overcome his fears and enjoy life in the Big Apple or will he run back to his hometown?
Jeffrey is an amazingly well cast production. Stewart does his best to not still the screen although he’s so charming to not be drawn to him. Batt’s character is a bit of himself since he also starred on Broadway in Cats. Among the actors that pop up as Jeffrey debates his desires in life are Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck), Victor Garber (Legally Blonde), Gregory Jbara (Blue Bloods), Robert Klein, Nathan Lane (The Producers, Camryn Manheim (The Practice), Kathy Najimy (Sister Act), Kevin Nealon (Weeds), Sigourney Weaver (Alien) and Christine Baranski (The Big Bang Theory). The film doesn’t make fun of the AIDS crisis. It does address how this ravaged the creative community in the city. But Jeffrey doesn’t become super depressing as he faces the complications in his own outlook on life, love and carnal joys. Jeffrey remains an enjoyable and enlightening dramedy.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out a bright and cheerful view of New York City in the mid-90s. The city hadn’t quite out priced a creative class. The audio is 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo. The levels bring out the fourth wall busting moments. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary with Steven Weber and film critic Alonso Duralde. He admits to having never seen the stage play. He was offered the script because of his work on the hit Wings. He speaks about taking the role.
Steven: An Interview with Steven Weber (26:20) has him talk about making an AIDS related comedy. He talks about how the role impacted him.
Mark: An Interview with Mark Balsam (11:47) meets up with the producer. He talks about how the film is how a man must figure out how he fits into the world.
Theatrical Trailer (2:26) shows the film is going to be about sex.
Still Gallery (10:46) has plenty of shots from the gym.
Shout! Factory presents Jeffrey. Directed by Christopher Ashley. Screenplay by: Paul Rudnick. Starring: Steven Weber, Patrick Stewart, Michael T. Weiss, Bryan Batt & Sigourney Weaver. Rated: R. Running Time: 93 minutes. Released: June 11, 2019.