Spoiler Alert, the latest film from Michael Showalter (who we interviewed for this film), is based on Michael Ausiello’s best-selling memoir. In it, Ausiello details the real-life relationship between himself and his partner; a story both life-affirming and painfully tragic. The chances of their being a dry eye during a screening of this film seems practically impossible. Spoiler Alert follows the 14-year relationship between Ausiello (Jim Parsons) and his late husband, Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge). Yes, as the name may suggest, the film doesn't shy away from its reveals, because this story is far more invested in the journey rather than the destination. It’s in this beautiful notion that allows the life-affirming material to soar. What may seem like a simple story is anything but, particularly due to some of Showalter’s creative choices, and the wonderful chemistry between Parsons and Aldridge.
One of the main through-lines of the film is the repeated use of an 80’s sitcom set. Ausiello, the American television journalist who created TVLine, obviously has a deep passion for television. So with that in mind, Parsons’ Michael quickly announces that he best handled life through the lens of his very own family-style sitcom. It’s within this framing device that Michael tells his audience a story, but more importantly, allows for a more raw sense of emotion. Moments that may come off as a bit saccharine feel less so due to the clear idea of a man baring his tender soul to his listeners/readers/viewers. These cutaways also let Showalter’s tried and true comedic sensibilities flourish. Yet at any moment, he can use the very same context to tear at the heartstrings of his audience. It’s a massive endeavor to pull off, especially considering the film is based on a memoir. Yet, with the gentle presence of Showalter’s sensibilities and a deeply effective Parsons, Spoiler Alert feels genuine, powerful, and perhaps most importantly, simple.
Aldridge stated he is most proud that Spoiler Alert is, “A simple love story: two people in love.” This film does not necessarily need to be flashy in order to feel impactful, because every moment feels organic and lived in. The story does not feel sanitized, instead facing the common struggles of any bumpy relationship head-on. It’s deeply refreshing to see a film like this really delve into the common struggles of any relationship. Even upon the devastating revelation of Kit’s diagnosis, Showalter does not aim to sugar coat or lightly brush past. The most tragic moments of Spoiler Alert are instead handled with stark, deafening silence. It’s within these moments that the story paints itself as a massive reminder of the fragility of life. Yet within that fragility, there is untouched beauty which is rarely depicted so genuinely on screen. Showalter’s approach to directing this film was described as “collaborative” and “a great audience.” There are many scenes taking place over meals or at parties where multiple characters will talk over one another. In the hands of lesser talent, this could come across to the audience as confusing or overwhelming. Spoiler Alert instead pulls the viewer into these conversations through laughter. It’s easy to become so deeply attached to these characters, mainly due to how plainly their love story is told.
Showalter stated, “There is something about the specific things you get out of a true story that are better than fiction,” and this rings true as Michael and Kit meet dancing at a club. Storybook moments are pulled from real life, making for the best type of story. Seeing their first date, their first Christmas together, their first time in the homes of one another; each moment is clearly defined by the memories Ausiello holds most dearly. While the film is rooted around a tragedy, it constantly reminds the viewer of the moments in life that pass by, but in retrospect, have an everlasting impact. It’s the type of film that you walk out of feeling eternally grateful for all you have. It’s a reminder that pain only comes from the absence of something special, and one should never close themselves off to anything because of that worry; to live a life of wonder and regret seems far more terrifying in the long-run. This is a love story that isn’t afraid to be incredibly realistic, and at every turn, it’s all the more powerful because of the commitment to delivering a story both true and painful.
Focus Features has released Spoiler Alert in select theaters, and will play nationwide on Friday, December 9th.