Partners 1982 ***

The buddy-cop movie is something that always seems to have been a cliché; what happens when you pair a policeman with a child, a woman or even a dinosaur? In James Burrow’s 1982 comedy, Ryan O’Neal is the LA tough-guy who has to deal with a seismic change in his life when he’s forced to work alongside a gay man. Not just any gay man, but a 1982 comedy gay man in the form of the late John Hurt, who wears a pink furry track suit that makes him look like the Easter Bunny. Hurt’s career as a terrific character actor had been established long before Alien made him an unexpected household name, but his performance is uncertain here; at times, being homosexual seems to require behaving as if recently lobotomised, at other times, like an alien. O’Neal, as in the similarly neglected star vehicle So Fine, seems to enjoy being thrust into unusual outfits, notably bondage gear, but the story about going undercover is strictly rote. The screenplay is by Francois Veber, who was responsible for many French films made into US remakes (The Birdcage, Dinner for Schmucks), and it feels like his ability to lean into stereotypes for comic effect has been misunderstood here. Partners isn’t a good film, but as a time-capsule of how negative Hollywood has been about homosexuality, it’s one of a kind. There’s more than a few reasons this film has been buried, but it can be exhumed, freshly or not, via streaming services or even You Tube.


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