Spoiler Alert Review

Reviews Films




Spoiler Alert: stories of good men dying young will always make you cry, but sometimes they can leave audiences looking for more.

It feels oddly harsh to critique Michael Showalter’s Spoiler Alert as it is based on a true story of the same name, written by Michael Ausiello. It tells the story of how he lost his husband to cancer, and follows their relationship from its inception, through their growth as individuals and a couple, and eventually to their joint grief. While this film still might make you cry as Jim Parsons portrays the nuances of Michael Ausiello in the impossible position of losing his love Kit (played by Ben Aldridge) so young, it probably will leave you wanting more. 

There is still a palpable feeling of joy when LGBTQIA+ stories are centered in mainstream media: we’ve had Christmas films like Holiday Season, bitter historical romances like My Policemen, and now it is time for the classic, cliché tragic romance that ends in a terminal illness. Michael Showalter brings the narrative to life in a way that is beautifully shot and intimate, with characteristic twee and romanticized footage of New York, juxtaposed skillfully with harsh hospital scenes, to remind us of the life that Kit is leaving behind. Showalter clearly benefited from his previous experience with The Big Sick, humanizing the clinical nature of death in modern hospitals under cool-toned fluorescent lights in a way that will have you reaching for the tissues. 

The two young men meet at ‘jock night’ at a gay bar. Parsons, playing the stereotypical nerdy journalist Michael,  is drawn to the vivid and artistic nature of the designer/photographer and their romance begins. Michael is full of eccentricities and hangups from his tragic childhood, while Kit is navigating the party nature of the artistic scene and coming out to his awkward but ultimately very loving family. Eventually, the two move in together and find that their differences are potentially insurmountable, so they have a trial separation. Then they are abruptly drawn back together by a sharp change in circumstances – Kit’s diagnosis. 

It’s no surprise, from the very beginning we know that Kit’s cancer is terminal, hence the title Spoiler Alert, with plenty of flashbacks to Kit and Michael saying goodbye in the hospital and a guiding narration from our protagonist. The narration is cute and emotive, but doesn’t really allow you to infer the deeper motivations of the characters. That, paired with the cheesy sitcom imagining of Michael’s flashbacks to childhood, really feels like the themes of the story are being shouted at the audience, rather than artfully shown – it’s frankly heavy handed. 

As a final note, while mainstream queer cinema has come leaps and bounds, Spoiler Alert in some ways, feels like a step backwards. Michael and Kit are both typical rom-com tropes and gay stereotypes. The nerdy writer from New York with quirky hangups who ‘doesn’t really like bars’ meets the sensual artist type? It’s been done. There are also cringey lines of stock ‘gay’ lexicon and ‘sassy’ moments from both leads that make the characters less believable as actual people. 

In the end, Spoiler Alert is a step in the right direction to the centering of queer stories, but it’s more like a sideways shuffle.