To say that Looking takes pride in the quotidian, as it were, is at once a limiting and apt and expansive way to understand the show. Yes, part of Looking’s charm is its “dullness”, as if the queers who liked Queer as Folk are nor just tired as fuck and are ready to settle down for a nice quiet dramedy, but that day to day appreciation of the little moments informs its aesthetic as much as anything. Because what you get in Looking is not merely economical shot/reverse shot compositions and sequences, but the camera hovering and lingering on this group of men. Because, similarly to another comparably cinematic show Mad Men, Looking, its second season now available on Digital HD, is about silences, it’s about touches, and it is, as its title suggests, about gazes.
Quotidian refers to the everyday, but what is bothersome about its dismissive use is that there’s nothing bad about the everyday on television. Perhaps what scares off potential viewers about this particular aesthetic is that television, and film, often depict heightened versions of reality, heightened versions of the every day, and heightened versions of interpersonal relationships. But then the aforementioned are portrayed in the quiet, naturalistic ways that we often experience them, it comes off as allegedly boring and dull. It’s foreign to us to see that reality reflected back at us. But, as Keith Uhlich suggests, the beauty of the show is in its very ordinariness.
That may be a somewhat assimilationist point of view, there is a bit of an irony in the accusations of heteronormativity often lobbed at Looking: its auteur, Andrew Haigh (the show was created by Michael Lannan), features a conversation about this very idea in his debut feature filmWeekend, in which a quick tryst becomes a conversations and process of unraveling vulnerability. The point of Weekend is that the binary between separatist and assimilationist may not matter, that it is these very quotidian moments that we find resonance, regardless of whether you’re in a long term relationship with your partner or a Radical Faerie firmly against the institution of marriage. The day to day lives of these people have similar, if not the same, seconds, minutes, and moments of beauty.
Weekend’s naturalistic gorgeousness is expertly transposed to a larger television landscape, and the intimacy that existed between Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) in terms of closeness, both in terms of spatial relationship and emotional vulnerability, is able to be expanded upon between Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), and Dom (Murray) as they parse through their relationships with their respective partners, and with themselves.
What’s striking about how this is achieved is that the sex that Patrick has with Kevin (Russell Tovey) is as immaculately executed as the sex that Russell and Glen have in Weekend: per the particular situation they’re in – similar in tone if not exact circumstance – it is an explosion of desire and yearning, particularly the desire to be with someone. TO occupy the same space and to breath the same air, and to feel safe, despite the impossibility. The scene in which Patrick and Kevin have their first overnight together and Patrick tops Kevin for the first time speaks to this idea: there’s something thrilling about the paradoxical newness and familiarity of one another’s being, their presence, and their body.
But even in scenes outside of the bedroom, Agustin’s gradual evolution with his relationship with HIV positive Eddie (Daniel Franzese, perfectly gay to function) is carefully tempered so that every touch matters to them and their situation. A glance, a sigh, and word choice has a reverberation. And while these scenarios are played out as melodramatic and loud and fraught with tension in other shows, even ones devoid of queer characters, Looking’s delicate touch doesn’t drain the situations of their resonance. These characters just act, as in “real life”, like adults, or not.
Dom and his best friend Doris’s (Lauren Weedman) takes a cue from Noah Baumbach’sFrances Ha and, in the same way, allows Looking to be versatile in its examination of relationships, both platonic and romantic. Even the arms that they put around each other, both literally and figuratively, are imbued with meaning.
And it’s nice to have someone, anyone, whose eyes you can gaze into and recognize a safety and security in there, regardless of how transient all relationships are. That stability is comforting.Looking impossibly mimics that comfort and warmth, its handheld cinematography often just looking at a character as they speak, appreciating their words, however immature or reckless they may be. We all get that way. Unexpected is part of the day to day, even if it’s subtle. And, though it may be sappy to say, as the title of the season finale suggests, we’re all looking for that place of familiarity and comfort, called home.
This originally appeared on the defunct site VeryAware.com