Movie Review: Despite being light on surprises, “Spoiler Alert” draws enough from Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge, as well as its source material, to be a notable and heart-aching portrayal of life’s unexpected moments.
Make sure to have a box of tissues next to you if you decide to seek out “Spoiler Alert” at home anytime soon. Focus Features’ latest comedy that dropped right towards the end of 2022 is now streaming on Peacock after a short-lived theatrical run in theaters. And for anyone that wanted to, but didn’t get around to seeing it on the big screen, shame on us. It’s pretty great, and completely evolves into a movie beyond its genre conventions.
“Spoiler Alert” chronicles the fourteen year relationship between writer Michael Ausiello (whose 2017 memoir serves as the source material for the film, and is played by Jim Parsons) and his significant other Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge). Although the movie starts as a charming and typical romantic comedy with all the bells and whistles, it slowly turns to a chilling and honest portrait of a couple facing their worst fears imaginable.
Jim Parsons was always destined to play a character like Michael Ausiello in “Spoiler Alert.” Although his prominent career role has been as Sheldon Cooper in “The Big Bang Theory” – a character reluctant to be anything but a walking Encyclopedia and a soulless, mouthy roommate for his close friends – Parsons carries a sort of “every guy” quality that can peel back the layers and use facial acting to tell the backstory you need. Despite being known for being a twitchy geek, there’s so much more to a performer that can pull you in in all the subtle ways.
Which makes “Spoiler Alert” a movie that largely works despite being so obvious in its execution. Prepare to cry for this one because it uses a template seen far too often in films struggling to break conventional genre norms. It’s a genre movie, although saying it succumbs to romantic comedy structure wouldn’t give the movie its dues because at the nearly halfway point, it noticeably shifts. Maybe it’s not a surprise given that the movie is based off a book written by Ausiello titled “Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies,” but the movie being presented about two gay men navigating life together becomes so much deeper when one of them inevitably gets a cancer diagnosis in the second half.
I blame marketing teams and studio executives for not making “Spoiler Alert” a bigger deal. It has all the makings for being a crowd weeping hit that develops a large word of mouth strictly off people wanting to cry in a movie led by the guy from “The Big Bang Theory.” Unfortunately, if I recall, the only time I saw this trailer in theaters was for “Bros” – another gay romantic comedy that few people went and saw in theaters. Maybe that gave the distributors of “Spoiler Alert” cold feet, but it’s a bit disheartening seeing such a likeable movie feel D.O.A. on streamers only a couple months after its theatrical run.
For what its worth, “Spoiler Alert” is also much better than “Bros.” It’s incredibly more likeable, genuine, and the comedy lands so much better and natural than Nicholas Stoller’s movie. Jim Parsons and Ben Aldridge offer a range of different emotions and situations that make a story that spans over a decade such a believable and heartbreaking one. Each gut punch is felt, but also each uplifting, joyous one is felt too. It leans hard into the romantic and dramatic side as opposed to the comedic side, but it rarely feels too sentimental or light.
If anything, I would say that “Spoiler Alert” may breeze by just a bit too quickly. The movie touches on fragments of their story, but it has to quickly pivot given that it’s trying to tell a fourteen year story in under two hours. That’s an intense undertaking for director Michael Showalter, who turns in his best film yet for how caring and respectful he is of the source material. Perhaps the story is a bit too broad, and working with a few too many threads to fit neatly into a feature length film.
Because there are a few storylines that feel incongruent to the rest of this cancer drama. Occasionally “Spoiler Alert” cuts to moments of Michael Ausiello as a kid actor struggling with his own identity and insecurities, as well as familial issues given his parents both died years before this movie’s events. Although it serves as necessary backstory for his character, these moments often cut tension or drama for a quick gag or awkward joke.
The movie also wrongfoots you into believing that “Spoiler Alert” is about this couple struggling to be open about their gay relationship, largely because that’s what many of these same sex rom coms are about. I was shocked to see just how hard this movie pivots into being a cancer drama. I thought quite a bit about “The Spectacular Now” (one of cinema’s last great rom coms, mind you), and how that also takes a heavy turn from being the typical genre entry.
I could see some thinking “Spoiler Alert” is a bit too emotionally manipulative and calculated, but seeing Jim Parsons finally get to be in a good movie that lets him show a different side than Sheldon Cooper was enough of a refreshing spin to suck me in. Ben Aldridge as his significant other Kit delivers a role that only deepens as it goes on. The movie does a beautiful job at telling a somber and heartbreaking tale with the utmost care that it deserves, one that I’m sure Michael Ausiello must be proud of.