“My Dead Boyfriend” forces us, once again, to consider the strange case of Heather Graham.
Perpetually perky, she’s a leggy former child star whose credits range from “Twin Peaks” and “Growing Pains” to “Drugstore Cowboys” and Boogie Nights,” “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” to many a sad hooker turn in films like “The Hangover”
She’s never quite broken through, and now, at 46, she’s playing a New York “type” whose personality traits and life achievements suggest the character is about half her age.
Narrator/heroine “Mary” has never come close to getting it together. She’s been in bands, she’s had dead-end jobs. And she’s been living with this “poet,” Primo (John Corbett, many miles past “Northern Exposure,””My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Sex and the City”). And she’s come home after getting fired from her latest job to find him dead, splayed out in front of the TV.
She jokes with the cops who come to investigate about how he “caught me on the rebound,” and was more of a “temp boyfriend like I was between gigs.”
Primo’s pushy and aged mother (Viola Harris) insists on his cremation and insists Mary dispose of the ashes. Her similarly hapless BFF Zoe (Katherine Moenig) has no solutions, and this creepy childhood “neighbor” (Griffin Dunne) who keeps showing up have no suggestions about how to handle all this.
So Mary digs into Primo’s past, visiting strip clubs, drag bars, tracking down some greater love of his life to give the ashes to. One former lover, the French art dealer Helene (Gina Gershon, having a laugh) has the most clues.
“How deed he die?”
“Had a bad heart.”
“Zas ees true.”
Primo was a faithless lover, a painter, a choreographer, maybe even a filmmaker. And as Mary digs and digs, she finds herself hurled into the band of one ex (Martha Millan, abrasively amusing) and totally thrown by this lazy lout whose death starts to feel more life another piece of performance art in a life spent dabbling and posing in the arts.
Andre Ward stands out as a drag queen with lots of answers and a vampy, cliched stage age — “If I could love…I would love you ALL.”
A laugh pops up, here and there, as surprised to be in the movie as we are to find it there. Mostly, though, one is struck by all these actors having a lark, playing versions of the sorts of roles they would have/should have played 20 years ago in an story that’s inexplicably a 1999 period piece.
And Graham? Still wearing the short shorts, the shorter skirts, the knee socks and the wider than wide eyes. She and “My Dead Boyfriend” aren’t exactly bad, they’re just out of place and out of time.
But at least she’s not playing another hooker.
MPAA Rating:R for language and sexual content
Cast: Heather Graham, Katherine Moennig, John Corbett, Scott Michael Foster, Martha Millan, Griffin Dunne, Gina Gershon