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Review: Spoiler Alert

November 28, 2022

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Based on Michael Ausiello’s autobiographical book Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, the point of the movie Spoiler Alert (and the book that preceded it) is to tell a sweeping love story where we already know the tragic outcome. The film succeeds at this with mostly satisfying but somewhat mixed results.

Jim Parsons stars in the film as Michael, a writer for TV Guide who falls in love with photographer Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), with their relationship taking a heartbreaking turn when Kit is given a terminal diagnosis of a rare form of neuroendocrine cancer.

Parsons narrates the film, which was adapted for the screen by actor David Marshall Grant (who plays a therapist) and advice columnist Dan Savage. The screenplay charts the ups and downs of their relationship over the years – including the Christmases that they spent together – as Michael reflects back on both their good and bad times as a couple, while helping Kit through his final few months with the illness.

The film is directed by Michael Showalter, who mined similar territory with better results in The Big Sick. A man watching his partner dying of cancer could have made for a completely depressing film, but Showalter instead goes for The Big Sick approach of trying to balance both humour and heart. The only trouble is that, while Spoiler Alert is presented in the same vein as that 2017 film, the title all but tells us it won’t have a feel-good ending, which Showalter has some trouble reconciling with. The film is clearly modelled after other cancer dramedies like 50/50 and Terms of Endearment (including a reference to Shirley MacLaine’s Oscar-winning performance), but it doesn’t quite nail the balance.

The film tries to be both a sentimental Christmas rom-com and authentic tearjerker, and at times the approach can feel forced. This is especially true in regards to the film’s more stylistic narrative choices, which don’t always mesh with the more grounded portrait of a relationship evolving and changing over the years. We get flashbacks to Michael’s childhood done in the style of the 1980s sitcoms he grew up watching, and there is a stylistic pivot near the end that actually undercuts the emotion of the climactic moments. These elements feel like something out of a different movie, and feel somewhat out of place amidst the otherwise more conventional storytelling.

If not every stylistic touch or narrative choice works equally well, Spoiler Alert is still a touching film that does deliver some bittersweet and more genuinely emotional moments. The material is elevated by a fine cast. Parsons is good, building upon the dramatic range that he showed in A Kid Like Jake and the 2020 remake of The Boys in the Band, while Aldridge delivers an appropriately gutting performance, making us fall for Kit before breakout our hearts. Sally Field and Bill Irwin nicely fill out the supporting cast as Kit’s parents, who have to go through their own journey of acceptance regarding both their son’s sexuality and terminal diagnosis. The result is a decent if imperfect holiday weepie.

Spoiler Alert opens in select theatres on December 2nd, before expanding on December 9th.

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