Dirty Laundry Movie Review
Upscale New York magazine writer Patrick (Rockmond Dunbar) finds his comfortable life interrupted when Gabriel (Aaron Grady Shaw), the ten-year-old son he didn't know he had, shows up unescorted at his door. With no other choice, Patrick takes the boy back to his southern hometown, where he is something of a prodigal son, having basically abandoned his family in order to live life as a gay man in the big city. His chain-smoking force-of-nature mother Evelyn (Loretta Devine) isn't exactly happy to see him, and neither is his sister Jackie (Terri J. Vaughn) or his jealous brother Eugene (writer/director Maurice Jamal). They feel betrayed by him and haven't yet accepted his homosexuality. Eugene, for one, is prone to calling Patrick "fancy," a code word for everything he hates about this guy who used to be his brother.
The extended family and townsfolk, who love to dish about each other in church pews and at big barbecues, are equally suspicious of Patrick, whom they remember as Sheldon. The very fact that he's changed his name is cause for more whispers. Things really come to a head when Patrick's white twink-with-a-heart-of-gold boyfriend Ryan (Joey Costello) shows up and starts to win people over with his oblivious honesty and sense of fun. No one is more outspoken about all this activity than busybody Aunt Lettuce (Jenifer Lewis), whose over-the-top fashion sense and horrific gospel singing voice provide the movie's funniest moments. There's nothing like a hypocritical, foul-mouthed shrew to inject laughs into a bustling family comedy.
Ultimately, it's up to mother and son to work through some harsh accusations and hurt feelings before anything resembling a happy ending can take place. Their fierce verbal battles feel real, and Devine is great in the role of the aggrieved mother who took in washing for decades in order to put a roof over her son's head, only to have him walk away. For his part, Patrick blames Evelyn for years of disapproval both stated and unstated, and only after they both lay it all out on the table can the two start to accept that both just tried to do their best, mistakes and all, and maybe forgiveness is the way to go.
Dirty Laundry breaks a bit of new ground by telling its coming-out story in the context of a southern black community, but other than that, it's run of the mill, with a few good laughs along the way. Enjoy it for its good intentions and for the strong performances from Devine and Lewis.