For a film largely about speech, the provocatively titled documentary “Do I Sound Gay?” has little of great significance to say. Writer-director-star David Thorpe attempts to probe the whys and wherefores of what he calls the stereotypical “gay male voice,” but he ends up crafting a naval-gazing self-portrait that’s unflattering, inconclusive and, at times, a bit specious.
Cameras follow 40-ish journalist Thorpe on his journey to change what he considers his “gay” speech pattern to sound more traditionally masculine and to boost his shaky self-esteem. But his visits with speech pathologists result in a muddled kind of band-aid therapy instead of a serious look at the oral and lingual physiology that shape verbal patterns and cause certain speech issues. The film would almost have you believe a “telltale” lisp was exclusive to gay men, when it’s actually a treatable, equal-opportunity phenomenon.
En route, Thorpe chats with an assortment of LGBT folks, including friends, strangers and such celebrities as comedian Margaret Cho, actor George Takei, CNN anchor Don Lemon, humorist David Sedaris and activist Dan Savage (always eloquent), who comment on the subject at hand. Bits of social and historical perspective as well as film and TV clips of notable “gay sounding” actors and personalities are peppered in, to little unified effect.
Internalized homophobia and its often lifelong effect on the gay male psyche is also addressed, particularly with regard to the candid, conflicted Thorpe. That’s balanced by input from gay men who embrace their culture’s gamut of speech and affectation.
Thorpe’s topic might have been better served in a broader-based documentary about LGBT stereotypes than as the basis for an entire film.
“Do I Sound Gay?”
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 17 minutes.
Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles. Opens July 17.
FOR THE RECORD
July 10, 9:51 a.m.: An earlier version of this article did not specify the release schedule for “Do I Sound Gay?” The film opens in New York and is available through video on demand this week. It opens in Los Angeles on July 17.