Middle-Age, Sexless Marriage: What's To Be Done?

Falling for Angels

This week on Falling for Angels, Here TV’s neighborhood-specific anthology series exploring the diversity of gay life in Los Angeles: Aging gays! Bed death! Non-judgmental treatment of sex work! Truvada for PrEP! High-earning gays’ relationship ennui in fussily decorated Bel Air one-levels!

I kid, of course. This week’s episode is another chamber piece with just enough plot for a 21-minute story about two gay men who have it all: a great house, great friends, careers, long-term commitment—except they’ve “fallen out of sex,” as the episode puts it. So it often goes in a long-term relationship.

The episode opens with Chase (Jason London of Dazed and Confused) and Bentley (Kevin Spiritus) really in their element, throwing a successful little birthday get-together. Both are wearing those soft-colored, vertically striped dress shirts that are basically the uniform for classy middle-aged gays. I’ll assume that the friends of Dorothy at the party are always this demonstrative, but even the hets in attendance are behaving en pointe for this spirited little gathering. Nobody does parties better than us. Everyone, of course, has a glass of champagne in hand. There’s a blazing fire.

“This beautiful man makes every day of my life, no matter what I’m going through and what is happening, brighter and better than I could have ever imagined,” Bentley toasts the birthday boy. We have no reason to doubt it.

The first half is cut, however, with anxious, sterile black-and-white shots of a hand placing pills on a plate and fingers fidgeting with wedding rings. Falling for Angels never has time for much nuance. “Bel Air” is a vignette and knows it.

“I wanted to show a long-time married couple in their most quiet personal state,” says writer–director David Millbern, an alumnus of the Actors Studio and Northwestern who is himself around the age of his leads. After the guests leave, the two have an easy, not-unpleasant scene in bed together, but it’s practically all business. Chase has an early flight, so they, with their flannel pajamas and matching sleep blindfolds, set an alarm, give a quick peck and turn out the lights. They settle in with their backs facing each other.

It’s just an overnight business trip, but that’s enough time for each to call upon a gentleman of the evening. Both of the guys’ experiences even mirror each other here, too. 

Fade to white, and then they’re sitting at the kitchen table, the maid having found Chase’s PrEP bottle in his laundry.

“I love you,” says Chase. “I love everything we have.” Again, we have no reason to think these words are insincere—especially when he continues, “You’re my best friend, and I need a sex life.” Each syllable of that last clause is emphasized.

“I believe keeping a meaningful, coupled sexual life going, combined with our perceptions of aging, is tough stuff,” says Millbern.

There’s a lot unsaid here. I question why the couple hadn’t entered an open relationship when the sexual fire burned out, but they do seem happy, fond of each other and maritally compatible. Millbern agrees. “These guys do love each other. They love each other as best friends. They love each other as companions. They have a history. They’ve just fallen out of sex with each other.” They know each other well enough that neither one is surprised at the other’s infidelity. Perhaps it was just easy enough to buy it, rather than launch into a messy affair.

The two spend the second half talking it out, each announcing their involvement with hired men and questioning how best to move on. This may be the first time PrEP among older gays has been explored: notice how Bentley, so long he’s been single and nominally monogamous, needs Chase to inform him about it. I hope that more queer media will begin to explore the profound effects this complicated miracle drug is having on our world. At any rate, the scene is particularly well-acted; the tears feel real.

The cinematography and sound is not groundbreaking, but it is skillful and effective, particularly its use of silence. It’s an episode steeped in domesticity, but what we see of LA—vibrant colors, great natural light, gorgeous landscape architecture—firmly gives a sense of place. And the last scene? It’s just the cutest. It may be the first time I’ve ever described the physical activity portrayed as cute, but there’s no other word for it.

 

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