‘Spoiler Alert’: Tissues Are a Must for This Beautifully Flawed Love Story

Like the best love stories, Spoiler Alert is a bundle of contradictions. The most obvious is always first – it’s a story of two very different people who nevertheless form a life-changing connection. It’s deeply personal, yet universal. It deviates from tradition while embracing it, thoroughly modern while acting as a kind of throwback, at times to its detriment.

Much as the title implies, Spoiler Alert makes no secret of the final end which awaits Michael Ausiello (Jim Parsons) and Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge). But as TV columnist Ausiello wrote it in his memoir of the same name, they had thirteen years together before cancer forced them apart. As the film movingly depicts how they end, it also lovingly shows us how this love story began and played out in its various complexities.

Critical Framing

Ausiello’s profession is also his framing device, and it’s mostly to the movie’s benefit as a surprisingly light, life-affirming story. And since Ausiello worked for TV Guide when he met his future husband Kit in the early 2000s, the nostalgia is strong with this one. Within the first few minutes, there’s retro references galore to help set the mood, with shout-outs to Gilmore Girls, Fear Factor, and Felicity, the latter of which wouldn’t be complete without a verbal nod to Keri Russell’s hair.

There’s no single show Michael focuses on that would risk being off-putting to an audience, but television is the lens through which he sees the world and copes with past and present trauma, with childhood flashbacks conveyed as a faux 80’s sitcom, complete with laugh track. It’s easy to gather how this coping method carried him through the death of his mother, also from cancer, and how it translated into a profession that would continue to define his life and views of the world. “You always felt like premium cable to my network sitcom,” Michael muses as he reminisces on his self-sabotaging view of himself in comparison to Kit's more conventional and downright dreamy appearance.

Memorable Beats

In the meantime, Michael and Kit kick off their love story by meeting cute in a bar and not having sex immediately after, a development that’s always appealing to the straights. Even if many of the political events of the time may as well be nonexistent, there are still plenty of indicators that all is not well for the LGBTQ community, with public affection leading to concern about gay bashing even in New York City, and the fact that Kit isn’t out to his parents when he first meets Michael.

It makes for very little of the baggage that would come to weigh down Bros, and Spoiler Alert will likely be embraced for attempting to do far less. Each half of the central duo are the (pun intended) straight men in a sea of large, flamboyant personalities who take the spotlight, with any person of color mostly shoved aside in favor of Michael and Kit’s relationship, and eventually, the close family ties Ausiello forms with Kit’s parents Bob (Bill Irwin) and Marilyn (Sally Field, who almost steals the whole movie). And the depressingly familiar suffering and death of one-half of a longstanding LGBTQ relationship.

But just when it seems as if Spoiler Alert is giving us a story neatly wrapped in familiarity for safe mainstream consumption, it allows its audience to question what would’ve been. Kit and Michael were in couples counseling and living apart when Kit discovered his pain was due to a growth which revealed itself to be the big C. Such a development can only strip away any and all pretenses or distractions, and Michael is soon far more concerned with helping Kit survive than analyzing their relationship.

At the End of the Day

We know that their battle will end in the most devastating way possible, and when that moment comes, Michael brings back his trademark coping method for what risks being the movie’s most divisive moment. It’s hard to fault anyone for attempting to use an established coping mechanism to say goodbye and attempt to process such a devastating emotional blow through a method which is so heavily meta. But some will simply be unable to get behind such a device for an event as impactful and undeniably primal as death.

The method is as much Ausiello’s as the love story, and what he takes from it is enough to rip out a heart with all the devastating beauty of a love story that as Michael himself notes, was all the better for being real rather than picture-perfect. With that sensibility firmly at its core, Spoiler Alert does more than merely bring tears, it brings visibility to the whole messy business of building and maintaining a relationship.

Rating 7/10 SPECS

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Andrea Thompson is a writer, editor, and film critic who is also the founder and director of the Film Girl Film Festival.

She is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics and runs her own site, A Reel Of One's Own, and has written for RogerEbert.com, The Spool, The Mary Sue, Inverse, and The Chicago Reader. She has no intention of becoming any less obsessed with cinema, comics, or nerdom in general.