Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ryan O'Neal & John Hurt in Partners (1982)

Benson (O'Neal) has a new partner. His name is Kerwin (Hurt), and he's not what Benson is used to - Kerwin is gay and they've been assigned an unusual case. They're to solve a series of murders in the gay community in LA by setting themselves up as members of it. This film walks a fine line of trying to be sensitive to the newly visible gay community and milking it for comedy - frequently the comedy wins out. Benson is given a ridiculous car and wardrobe to match, obviously playing on the stereotypes straight America had of gay men in 1982. Though much of the film is strained and uncomfortable to watch, there are some fun moments - particularly Benson's modeling session for a gay mag.

This film was not well received by the gay community and was eviscerated by the critics when it was released. If you've never seen it, it's worth a watch as a time capsule of where we were in our attitudes toward gay men in 1982. It's also an interesting study of the objectification of the male form, and how uncomfortable it made, and still makes some men. 

Partners was released on DVD in '08. There's very little video of it online, however. Above is the scene where Benson gets his new car. It's uploaded by Tudorhead.

Obscurity factor: 5 (available on DVD, remembered, if not fondly by many)


  1. Uugh, too much pink! Oy Vey!

  2. I wonder what our grandchildren will think of such "daring" movies as this one, and the contemporary Making Love, Cruising, and so on.

    I say grandchildren because time is needed. As ben says, today, watching one is "strained and uncomfortable." I for one couldn't even sit through it.

    Yet, with hindsight, I can appreciate the entertainment value of movies such as The Good Earth or Flower Drum Song - which could be perceived as supremely offensive. What could be worse than Butterfly McQueen in Mildred Pierce? In 1964, I would have burned the screen (so to speak, I was only 4)! Today I tolerate her scenes.

    I am fortunate that "my" minority is seniors. And throughout the ages, there have been many good movies about older people (and actually not so many demeaning ones).

  3. I had to review this for a magazine...OMG, it was painful. It's bad enough because so much of the humor falls flat, but the attitudes make you cringe. Interesting because it comes from one of the writers of La Cage aux Folles, and a director who later did many episodes of Will & Grace. It does touch on some legit issues, like police harassment of gays and ignoring crimes in the gay community. It ultimately struck me as an attempt at being gay positive by people who had no idea of what they were doing and ended up being offensive instead. It's overloaded with mincing stereotypes that are just painful to behold today.

  4. Yes, that pretty much sums it up. I think a big problem with the film is how the John Hurt character was written. If he had been more self confident I think it would have been a funnier cop/buddy movie with a twist. Oliver makes an interesting point about future generations. Will they react to it like Butterfly McQueen in Mildred Pierce or will it be more like the cringe inducing black face films of the 30's?

  5. Somewhere I heard that it was initially meant as a parody of "Cruising" but something went horribly wrong along the way. Then again, the notion of spoofing "Cruising" doesn't seem like it has much to recommend it. Don't know how true that story is...

  6. Yes, Cruising doesn't really lend itself to a spoof...