Synopsis: Based on Michael Ausiello’s best-selling memoir, the film is a heartwarming, funny, and life-affirming story of how Michael and Kit’s relationship is transformed and deepened when one of them falls ill.
Stars: Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, Bill Irwin
Director: Michael Showalter
Running Length: 112 minutes
TMMM Score: (9/10)
Review: Aside from ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ back in grade school, I can’t remember when I sobbed while reading a book before ‘Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies.’ Michael Ausiello’s 2017 memoir about his life with husband Kit Cowan, from their initial meeting until his death from neuroendocrine cancer in 2015, was a harrowing, unvarnished look at one couple and their relationship’s ups and downs. It documented not only how being with someone can be wildly romantic and wonderful but that the bad times can be a struggle and make you feel like the effort can be for naught. Ultimately, the love shared between them was what made the loss so devastating, and that was beautifully conveyed to the reader.
I didn’t know how that would be captured on film.
The movie adaptation, shortened to Spoiler Alert, has been brought to life by screenwriters Dan Savage (yes, that Dan Savage) and actor David Marshall Grant (who has a small role), and they’ve taken Ausiello’s book and presented it to viewers as a real gift. That same emotional beauty is still there, and how they’ve structured the piece pays tribute to Michael and Kit’s bond but also tips its hat in numerous ways to the kind of romantic comedies and tear-jerkers many of us grew up with.
Admittedly, I can’t say that I’m a fan of Jim Parsons (The Boys in the Band), so his casting as Michael gave me doubts. I still find him a bit too gangly for the role and slightly too old, but he carries the film with the appropriate weight and sincerity it needs. Ben Aldridge (Knock at the Cabin) is the winner between the two, deftly showing the range of feelings from Kit and likely having less real-world access to draw from in doing so. Then there’s Sally Field (Lincoln), who knows her way around a five-hanky weepie or two, correctly netting more laughs than tears as Kit’s triathlete mom. The great Bill Irwin (Interstellar) is also on hand for the grounded performance only an actor with his gravitas could offer.
Director Michael Showalter is undoubtedly on a roll with finding projects that draw out beautiful performances from his stars. On the big screen, he’s been at the helm of The Eyes of Tammy Faye and The Big Sick, and on the small screen, his work has been represented in The Dropout, and I Love That For You. You’ll notice how many of these have been rightfully rewarded/awarded by voting bodies – that has to say something about his contributions from his perch in the director’s seat.
Note: Due to timing, I missed Spoiler Alert in theaters, and that’s a good and a bad thing. It’s good because, like reading the book, I cried so hard I needed an entire roll of paper towel to squeegee off my face. Bad because the film had an unfairly short theatrical run and disappointingly small box office take. These are the kind of impactful, human stories that audiences crave, and I’m more than a little surprised it didn’t take off more. Here’s hoping a far greater audience discovers this at home.