The Truth About Alex (1986)

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Review by Brian J. Dillard

Although it's easy to ridicule this painfully earnest, remarkably tentative plea for tolerance, The Truth About Alex actually carried a fairly groundbreaking gay-rights message upon its 1986 cable-TV release. The film has all the trappings of an after-school special -- the stern military dad, the gruff coach, the peer-pressure anguish, the big game -- but its portrayal of Alex's plight is no more formulaic than any number of theatrical features that crowded art houses during the indie film boon of the 1990s. In the title role, Peter Spence turns in a sensitive performance, while Scott Baio proves singularly suited to play Brad, his initially intolerant best friend. The one thing that is missing from the script is any form of romantic hope for Alex, whose less-than-uplifting connections with the gay community range from a fag-bashing at the hands of a closeted truck driver to a wistful conversation with a guy at a stereotypical gay bar. Still, the film offers some historical interest just because its content, which was once too risqué for network TV, lags behind a typical night of prime-time fare more than a decade later. Anachronistic precisely because its message has been so widely embraced, The Truth About Alex still provides a gentle introduction to the subject of gay rights.