Those of us who are of a certain age may remember the time when we watched gay-themed movies not because we expected them to be good but simply because we wanted to see our lives represented in some way on-screen (other than in porn). These days, beside a growing number of "mainstream" films and the occasional gay blockbuster such as Brokeback Mountain, we are fortunate to have available an increasing number of nicely-written, well-acted little independent films with decent production values. All Over The Guy is one of these movies. (Indeed, it was the first such film I came across, a few years ago, which I felt was good enough to recommend to straight friends as well as gay.)

The film is a relationship comedy with a dramatic current that builds throughout and pays off emotionally at the end. It focuses on two gay men in their thirties, Eli (Dan Bucatinsky) and Tom (Richard Ruccolo), and their respective best friends, Brett (Adam Goldberg) and Jackie (Sasha Alexander), who are straight. Jackie and Brett "force" Eli and Tom on a blind date, partly for each man's own good and partly so they themselves have an excuse to get together for their own flirtations. Despite a realistically -- and painfully -- lackluster first date, circumstances and the machinations of their friends have the cute if vaguely nebishy Eli and the hunky but commitment-phobic Tom eventually forming a couple...sort of.

It's the "sort of" that comprises the crux of the film, giving it both its familiarity and its relevance -- especially to those of us who are "of a certain age". The on-again, off-again nature of Eli's and Tom's fling/courtship/friendship/whatever-it-is may appear at first to spring from their differing views of commitment: What it is, what it's worth, and how likely each of them is to find it. (Eli wants it, even -- or perhaps especially -- the mundane parts, while Tom completely dismisses the idea of "finding someone", opting instead to "just have fun".) But we ultimately see that, as is often the case, those views spring more from each character’s personality -- and the personal histories that gave rise to them -- than from any great philosophical principles.

Eli may at first appear the more obviously neurotic of the two, as evidenced by his constant nervous energy, his tendency to over-analyze every situation, and his apparent eagerness to declare himself unattractive. These traits aren't surprising, having had two well-meaning but overly touchy-feely psychologists as parents. But we eventually see that Tom's commitment- and self-esteem-related issues run far deeper, springing as they do from his parents' alcoholism and disfunctional marriage. (Tom's own alcoholism, established and discussed from the first scene of the movie, is but the tip of his iceberg.)

Though the movie was written and produced by Bucatinsky, the story is far from overly-focused on his own character. It's true that Eli is the everyman with whom we identify, and for whom we root. But it is Ruccolo's Tom who receives the most in-depth psychological treatment and who experiences the greatest emotional growth. What darkness there is in the film comes from him, and the problems he brings to the mix are what keep the story moving forward.

I cannot discuss the final resolution of Eli's and Tom's story without "giving everything away", so I'll simply say that I found it satisfying, believable, and surprisingly dramatic without being maudlin. What makes it succeed so well is a combination of powerful yet believable writing with terrific performances by Bucatinsky and Ruccolo, both of whom evince tremendous emotion without making it seem "acted".

Perhaps the most successful aspect of the film's character-driven drama is the fact that it never overpowers or detracts from the film's humor, but simply complements it. This is a comedy, after all, and one which succeeds very well on that level. Without getting into a "blow-by-blow" recounting of the movie's humor, suffice it to say that it is mostly of the type that keeps you gently smiling and chuckling at the humanity of its characters' foibles, rather than guffawing out loud at the inanity of their antics. A smattering of well-placed exceptions exist, however, including Andrea Martin's wonderfully over-the-top portrayal of Eli's mother. (The entire "Feel Wheel" flashback will remain a pleasant memory for a long time...!)

Strong performances by Goldberg and Mitchell make the characters of Brett and Jackie enjoyably kooky without sacrificing their believability either as a couple or as Eli's and Tom's respective best friends. This, coupled with significant screen time dedicated to their relationship, raises Brett and Jackie well above the level of mere "supporting characters". Though Eli and Tom are still the primary focus of the story, one could easily envision an enjoyable story centered around these two, as well.

Christina Ricci and Doris Roberts make brief appearances throughout the film, and Lisa Kudrow puts in a single-scene cameo. Though none of their characters are absolutely crucial to the story being told -- especially Kudrow's -- their presence in the film enjoyably fleshes out the world in which Eli, Tom, Brett, and Jackie live. As well as confirming that we, the audience, were right to start caring about these funny, slightly off-balance, imperfect but well-intentioned individuals in the first place. (And Robert's time on-screen, in particular, helps ground the story's theme of love and commitment, reminding us of what these things mean while simultaneously preventing us from getting too high-minded about them.)

To the excellent writing and acting add solid direction which doesn't draw attention to itself and brisk, transparent editing, and the result is a film which, though small in scope and budget, is far more enjoyable and worthwhile than many "big" productions.

Rated R for Strong Sexual Content and Language.

The DVD "extras" include a Production Commentary, Deleted Scenes, and Interviews.