I am getting tired of seeing films that are “inspired by” or “based on actual events”. Can’t anyone think of anything original these days? Is there really no one else with an Inception up their sleeve? Having said that, Wild About Harry can be forgiven for its proclamation of being “inspired by actual circumstances” as it is a deeply personal film from co-writer and director Gwen Wynne.
Set in Cape Cod in the early 1970s, the period lovingly evoked through costume and music, Harry (Tate Donovan) brings his daughters to the idyllic town to rebuild their life after the death of his wife. The town soon becomes a picturesque mask intended to hide Harry’s secret – that he is in love and pursuing a relationship with his business partner Mr. Gibbs. This being the 70s, the subject is strictly taboo and the action unforgivable and the film explores not only the conservative outlook towards homosexuality, but the denial that pervaded society with respect towards the matter – emblematic in Harry’s in-laws, most of the girls’ fellow students and their own difficulty in accepting the situation. The film tries to unveil these contradictions, particularly as the 70s was meant to be a time of freedom and love, yet the condemnation with which Harry and Mr. Gibbs are faced makes the naïve and optimistic vision of the period fall flat on its face.
The film feels a little bit dated and redundant though. It is not meant to be a celebration of its time, but rather a comment on pertinent themes. Although some of the themes are still relevant today, it seems frivolous to set them in a time gone by instead of addressing it in a contemporary setting. There is no denying the reduction of the effect of the commentary by placing it in an irrelevant social context –namely, one that has passed and changed – but it hits its key emotional note by reminding the audience, with its closing legend, that it is a personal film based on actual circumstances and that the only way the real Harry and Mr. Gibbs could ever be together is through this film.