A comedy about Aids isn't a contradiction in terms. Paul Rudnick, adapting his off-Broadway hit, deftly blends uproarious fun and touching gravity. Jeffrey (Steven Weber) waits tables and looks for acting jobs. He's off sex now that it kills. Then he meets hot, HIV-positive Steve (Michael T. Weiss), who is eager to talk him into bed and a relationship.
The film is a series of vignettes that show Jeffrey trying to overcome his fear with help that includes a televangelist (Sigourney Weaver) and a sex-crazed priest (Nathan Lane). As Jeffrey's designer friend Sterling, Patrick Stewart delights with put-downs, mostly at the expense of his dancer lover, Darius (Bryan Batt). Stewart's remarkable performance deepens when tragedy lowers his defenses. Director Christopher Ashley, who staged the play, shows no subtlety with the camera, but the film's embrace of life comes through. "There's only one blasphemy," says the priest, "and that's the refusal of joy." Jeffrey, lifted by Rudnick's artful wit and a priceless cast, digs right in.