We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

Midway through The Broken Hearts Club, a portrait of gay 20-somethings in West L.A., the titular brotherhood bemoans contemporary Hollywood’s stereotyping of homosexuals as AIDS victims, heartsick caregivers, and heroines’ confidants. One of the pals pipes up, “Can you imagine if they made a film about us, our group of friends? Maybe then we wouldn’t have to go around shamefully comparing ourselves to Steel Magnolias.” Well, that’s what writer-director Greg Berlanti has come up with, a superficial, clichéd ensemble piece brimming with synthetic smiles and simpering poignancy. The movie’s one-dimensional, self-dramatizing characters include a would-be photographer weary of one-night stands, a bleached-blond club kid obsessed with pumped-up bodies and recreational drugs, a promiscuous pretty boy who trades on his looks, a prematurely balding cynic distressed by his appearance, and a confused young man in the process of coming out. Aging restaurateur Jack (John Mahoney, in a cloyingly ingratiating performance) serves as the gang’s Shakespeare-spouting fairy godfather, dispensing pearls of wisdom, coaching the softball team, and occasionally donning drag to entertain the troops. A collection of vignettes records the transitory pleasures and maudlin sorrows of this restless fraternity as they make their rounds from gyms to discos, proving that straight males have no lock on protracted adolescence. A cast of largely unfamiliar actors performs competently, and Berlanti intermittently provides them with some amusingly bitchy banter. But The Broken Hearts Club amounts to little more than a confirmation of Jack’s observation: “Sometimes I wonder what you guys would do if you weren’t gay. You’d have no identity.” —Joel E. Siegel