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    Spoiler Alert Is a Three-Hanky Romantic Drama

    By Gary M. Kramer–

    A feel-good tearjerker, Spoiler Alert, chronicles Michael Ausiello’s (Jim Parsons) relationship with Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge), his partner of 14 years, who is diagnosed with cancer. The film, directed by Michael Showalter (The Big Sick) and co-written by David Marshall Grant and Dan Savage, is based Ausiello’s memoir of the same name, is life-affirming in that it recounts how Michael, a journalist for TV Guide, and Kit, a photographer, meet at a bar, fall in love, have difficulties in their relationship, and then grapple with terminal illness.

    Spoiler Alert handles the couple’s relationship and the narrative with sensitivity but also with humor. Scenes depict Michael remembering his childhood in the form of a sitcom, complete with a laugh track.

    Grant, who has a cameo in the film as a therapist for the couple, spoke with me for the San Francisco Bay Times about turning Ausiello’s life story from page to screen.

    Gary M. Kramer: Michael and Kit are vulnerable and confident at different times but also childish, flawed, and loveable. What observations do you have about them?

    David Marshall Grant: The characters were an incredible couple who stayed together through years through a lot of complications. Their love is so profound, and what is so beautiful about the memoir is seeing these two people realize and define the love they always had; to own and understand the value it had for both people. That’s not always the case. They realize that in their lives. I was so moved by that conceit. Kit is so funny, and his outlook on life is so adventurous and atypical. It’s fun to watch Michael’s character, who is so attached to tropes of television and the ways stories are told in films and TV, and when he applies that algorithm to his life, it’s fun to watch him try to connect things that are coming from very different places—a television story and a real-life story.

    Gary M. Kramer: Can you describe how you “make real life make sense?” This is a line from the film and one that relates to how Michael and Kit process their experiences.

    David Marshall Grant: I do try to make real life make sense through stories. I’ve been writing for television for 16 years. That’s a lot of episodes. And every episode has an A, B, and C story and the C stories come from a part of you. They may be 2 scenes, 3 pages each, but they are speaking to something the writer wants to process. A lot is revealed to me about how to make sense of my world through writing and even through acting.

    When I was married, I always wanted to have a child. I never thought I could, but I eked it out, and was probably too old to do it, but I did, and so much of the world comes into focus and is illuminated when you look into the eyes of your child. Watching her grow up is sort of a miracle in so many ways. In terms of giving my life and the world at large context, parenthood is a big factor there. It’s a lot, but it gives you a sense of the hugeness of whole experience of life.

    Gary M. Kramer: There are awkward moments and sad moments in the film, but also a comment about taking a moment to appreciate beauty. What moment spoke to you or affected you most in the film?

    David Marshall Grant: This is all Michael’s memoir on the screen. I was moved by so many things, but the scene that always makes me cry the most is on the deck and when he asks to marry him. They lay bare the things they wish they had said a long time ago. Watching them be there, honestly, and the love that comes from being honest with another human being, and the forgiveness and the love, that is always the place I go to in the memoir and the film. It was a great aspirational moment about what it means to love somebody.

    Gary M. Kramer: Why do you, in particular, and gay men, in general, find tragic stories life affirming?

    David Marshall Grant: I don’t think it’s exclusive to gay men, or women, or anyone. It’s a human reaction to stories that may be tragic, but in order for them to be tragic, they have to be about great love, great connection, and people struggling to find each other and other people, to do the right thing. All those stories are what we all long to be in life and connect in life. Why humans are attracted to tragic stories is about what makes us cry, not the tragedy. They are about the love and connection and how hard we fight to keep those we love close by. We all are going to die. We all will end in tragedy. I think facing that end is the beautiful way to really experience how much we appreciate what came before us.

    © 2022 Gary M. Kramer

    Gary M. Kramer is the author of “Independent Queer Cinema: Reviews and Interviews,” and the co-editor of “Directory of World Cinema: Argentina.” Follow him on Twitter @garymkramer

    Published on December 1, 2022