(director: Paul Bogart; screenwriter: Harvey Fierstein/from the play by Harvey Fierstein; cinematographer: Mikael Saloman; editor: Nicholas Smith; music: Peter Matz; cast: Harvey Fierstein (Arnold Beckoff), Anne Bancroft (Ma), Matthew Broderick (Alan Simon), Charles Pierce (Bertha Venation), Brian Kerwin (Ed Reese), Lorry Goldman (Phil Beckoff), Edgar Small (Jacob Beckoff), Ken Page (Murray), Karen Young (Laurel), Axel Vera(Marina Del Rey), Eddie Castrodad (David); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Howard Gottfried; New Line Cinema; 1988)

A pleasant and sincere straightforward gay love story that is captivating and tender even if soppy in spots.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tony Award-winning actor and playwright in 1983 Harvey Fierstein re-creates his role as the insufferable gay Jewish drag queen Arnold Beckoff, It’s a solid film adaptation of the smash Broadway play. It’s set in the 1970s, before the AIDS epidemic. The positive imaged gay family value rom/com/musical is based on an autobiography of Harvey Fierstein. Director Paul Bogart (“The Three Sisters”/”Marlowe”) covers three of the important events in Fierstein’s life, as he has an ongoing conflicting relationship with his nagging and disapproving stereotyped Jewish mother (Anne Bancroft) and challenging relationships with his lovers. In 1952, the youngster Arnold, in his Brooklyn home, shocks his caring mom by dressing as a girl. In 1971 Arnold works in the gay theater as Virginia Hamm, a female impersonator in a drag revue where he’s a gravel-voiced torch singer. At a gay bar he meets a bisexual school teacher from an upstate farm region, Ed Reese (Brian Kerwin), and they become an item. When Ed introduces him to his girlfriend Laurel (Karen Young), the touchy Arnold breaks off the relationship. Shortly afterwards Arnold begins a live-in relationship with the fashion model Alan Simon (Matthew Broderick), and they adopt a gay son (Eddie Castrodad) that Arnold acts as a mother to. When Alan is murdered by thugs while coming to the aid of homosexual kids being beaten in a school playground, Arnold and his son relocate and move in with Ed. In 1980, the aging Arnold re-evaluates his life and that leads to a reconciliation with his widowed mom as he demands from her ‘love and respect.’ It plays out as a pleasant and sincere straightforward gay love story that is captivating and tender even if soppy in spots. Critics have referred to Harvey in this film as performing like “Doris Day with a dick.” Though enjoyable and giving us a good impression of homosexuals, it has aged like a “Beach Party” movie.