This film is slightly different from the others in that I find none of the characters particularly attractive—i.e. cute. So why did I buy it? Well, there seems to be another attraction for me….
Bobby Riley is the youngest of four sons (he has a younger sister) in an Irish-Catholic family in Chicago. Like his brothers, he is a bit of a redneck—he is chronically sartorially challenged, loves his sports, loves his beers, has a distinct tendency toward sophomoric language and behaviour. He is also gay and very much in the closet with his brothers.
As the film opens, the Riley patriarch has just died and Bobby’s sister is reminding him that he promised he would come out to his brothers after the parents were gone (the mother died some time before). The “boys” decide to go on the annual fishing trip even though their father will not be with them this time. Bobby’s sister tells him that if he does not come out to his brothers on this trip, she is going to out him herself.
The trip is a litany of adolescent pranks and activities that highlights the closeness of the brothers and only serves to deepen Bobby’s dilemma. There is simply no way he can come out to them in this environment.
On their return to the city the siblings meet at the parents’ house to divide up family possessions. The sister has suggested to Bobby that a “family” slide show will do the trick, and she includes slides of Bobby and his partner in obviously “gay” poses. The brothers are not impressed. The eldest, who is a priest, is disgusted and storms out of the room. The other two—one is addicted to Internet porn; the other to pot—believe that Bobby and his sister have pulled some kind of prank on them. It is simply not possible that their baby brother is gay.
Once the truth begins to sink in, the brothers’ reactions range from outrage to disgust to bewilderment, all of these emotions accompanied by the usual plethora of homophobic jokes and remarks. When they realize that this little family “crisis” is not going to go away, the two middle brothers decide to meet Bobby’s lover, who happens to be a smart lawyer. Of course, he turns out to be pretty much like them (except for the fact that he doesn’t follow the Cubs) and he makes them look like the boorish fools they are.
The two brothers eventually come around to accepting Bobby back into the fold: he is their family and they cannot escape the simple fact that they love him. So in typical over-the-top fashion they hold a surprise coming-out party for him, complete with a large hand-written “Bobby’s Gay!” sign and a couple of hot strippers.
On the serious side, the eldest brother is unable, as a priest, to accept Bobby’s “active” homosexuality. He appears to truly buy the teaching of the Church on homosexuality and experiences great difficulty reconciling his love for his younger brother and his moral distaste for what he does in the bedroom. To the film’s credit, this conflict is left unresolved.
Outing Riley is a sweet and touching film. The family dynamic is truthfully played out, and the siblings, as well as Bobby’s partner, are lovable, distinctly individual, and believable.