How well do you know yourself? It seems like such a simple question, but how well do you really know yourself? Imagine living your life, going about your daily routine day in and day out for 50 years, and realizing that maybe you haven't been as honest with yourself (and others) as you've thought.
That's the premise of the new feature film You Can't Have It All starring Emmy-nominated daytime veteran Jon Lindstrom (Craig Montgomery, As the World Turns; ex-Kevin Collins, General Hospital/Port Charles).
Set in the tawny Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia, Lindstrom plays Paul Grecco, a well-to-do man in his 50s, who, after selling his company, finds himself unemployed for the first time in his life. Suddenly, Paul has hours and hours of free time -- free time that his sister, Elise (played in hilarious fashion by Wendie Malick), hopes he'll use to finally find a wife.
As each of her attempts to fix her brother up fail, Elise comes up with another plan to make sure that Paul doesn't go through the rest of his life without a companion. She buys him a puppy. It's that puppy -- one that Paul initially refers to as "it" and wants to send back -- that is the unwitting catalyst for Paul's journey to self-awareness.
After getting a quick puppy-training lesson from the perky Mindy (a sugary, she-can't-possibly-be-real bit role played memorably by Catlin Thurnauer), Paul takes his dog for a walk in the park. There, he meets Andy (played in a beautifully layered manner by newcomer Chris Murrah), an unlucky-in-love younger man who is also one of "the dog people." Over the course of several weeks, Paul realizes that he's drawn to Andy in a way that he didn't think was possible -- or maybe just didn't want to admit was possible.
Meanwhile, Elise has her hands full with another family situation; she fears that her son might be "g-a-y." Yes, she spells it out.
Also featured in the film is another soap star, Natalia Cigliuti (ex-Anita Santos, All My Children) in the role of Roz, Andy's best friend -- who seems to be more in love with gay men than her own husband. Fiercely loyal, Roz fires off some of the best zingers in the film.
The film climaxes in what can be safely called a truly soapy fashion that needs to be seen to be believed.
Though the central figures in You Can't Have It All are both men, Lindstrom is quick to note that the characters' sexuality is only part of the story. When presented with the initial script for the project, it was the story and the humor that captured the actor's attention.
"My agent called me and said, 'I've got this script that I think you're really right for, but I don't know how you'll respond... but I think you'll respond positively,'" Lindstrom recalled. "I read it and said, 'Yeah, you're right. I wanna go for this.'"
"It was funny. People will say they don't take you seriously until you play a gay character... Sean Penn, Daniel Day Lewis, Gary Oldman..." Lindstrom said with a chuckle. "I just liked the script. I thought it was funny. I thought it played out in a real way, but in a funny, light, and breezy way. To me it was a mainstream, romantic comedy about two characters who just happened to be gay."
Aside from this being Lindstrom's first time playing a gay character, it is also the first time that many of his fans will have the chance to see him in a comedic role.
"I welcomed the chance to do comedy," Lindstrom explained. "In television or in films, I usually don't get to do [comedy], but I have [had the chance] on stage. Most people don't see that because it's confined to a room or theater. So to get the chance to put something down on film that would be funny -- and hopefully stay funny for years to come -- was something that I really wanted to do."
You Can't Have It All was given the honor of opening the 16th Annual QFest, formerly the Philadelphia International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter opened the film festival with a proclamation -- and a bit of standup.
"When I got here, someone said to me, 'Thanks for coming out' and I said, 'No. Thank you for coming out,'" the mayor quipped to the predominantly gay and lesbian audience.
Later, the mayor boasted that QFest is the third largest gay and lesbian film festival in the country. "It's big -- I mean, that's something that you want to hear, right?" he deadpanned, adding, "I'm about two chardonnays from really getting myself in trouble."
Over the course of its two-night, sold-out debut, some 600 moviegoers enjoyed the film's premiere. Seated in the audience during both screenings, Lindstrom admitted that it can be unnerving waiting to see how viewers will react to certain scenes.
Though You Can't Have It All plays out larger-than-life on the silver screen, the movie was filmed in just 16 days -- and done with a budget less than 1% of most box office blockbusters.
"I've been doing As the World Turns for over a year and a lot of other television work where speed is always a factor, and I was actually doing double-duty. I was going back and forth a couple times to shoot in Brooklyn [where As the World Turns had been taped] and then back here to shoot a week at a stretch in Philadelphia. It helps you to be able to move faster when you have access to your emotions and not get too caught up in yourself and go [in a whiny voice], 'Oh, I'm not feeling it!' It's like we don't care. Just do it and keep it simple, stupid. It was a little bit of a Clint Eastwood kind of approach."
Written and directed by Jay Arnold and co-written by Thom Cardwell, the film's producers are currently working with distributors to find a way for You Can't Have It All to reach a larger audience.
"I hope [the movie] has some kind of theatrical life. I'd like to see it at least get an art house release so that people are aware of it in their minds so that when they walk into a video store or see it on the new releases at Netflix," Lindstrom states. "That way it will kind of pick up a life of its own. I'd like to see it kind of go outside the niche market that some people feel a movie like this should stay in -- because it shouldn't stay there. It should be seen and experienced by people who aren't gay. It should be seen by straights, gays, everyone."
Photo: Dan J Kroll/Soap Central