San Diego International Film Festival presents ‘Pushing Dead’: It’s only funny if it’s NOT you

pushing_dead

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Tom E. Brown

Studio: Bugsby Pictures

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When an HIV-positive man makes a tiny banking error that abruptly closes off his financial aid, suddenly he is forced to deal with a snail-like bureaucracy or somehow come up with the $3,000+ or so per month he needs to continue his life saving medications.

It was very odd to see James Roday, most known for his starring role on USA’s Psych, playing Dan, a funny character in a rather unfunny situation. Danny Glover in a supporting role as Dan’s boss and friend Bob, with his side stories of love gone wrong and own health issues, brings the same gruff but ultimately lovable fatherly-type figure he’s known for. Khandi Alexander is Bob’s wife Dot, and their off-again-on-again relationship is a hoot to watch. Robin Weigert as Dan’s roommate Paula has her own odd things going on too, but we never doubt her love and concern for Dan.

So we begin with Dan in his usual watch-beeps-time-to-take-meds routine, receiving a $100 birthday check from his mom and depositing it without really thinking about it. Next thing we and Dan knows, this sudden influx of riches has pushed his health benefits plan past the breaking point and he gets apologetically cut off. His friends, his boss, his roommate are all completely impotent when it comes to actually helping Dan, and the bureaucracy of the health care benefit system has all the sympathy of the Walrus and the Carpenter and the Oysters.

Dan proceeds to take this situation and does, well, he does fuck-all with it. He complains to his friends, he tries to help others since he sincerely cannot help himself, and in general Dan continues to live as though he might die tomorrow. (Given how his life is based around the taking of all these HIV medications, that is actually more possible than the audience seems to realize.) Time is counting down, despair is spiraling inward, and Dan is trying all sorts of desperate moves to either get the money or the meds he needs before he, potentially literally, begins falling apart!

It all comes to a head when Dan saves a transvestite from a severe beating and, despite his own current unhealthy condition, does his damnedest to get the sobbing woman to a hospital. There is a moment in here where, after Dan staves off the attack and goes to help the woman, she protests and tells him she’s “positive” and he should beware. Without a second thought, Dan replies that so is he, and lifts the rather heavy woman into his skinny arms, because that’s the kind of nice guy he is.

And this one instance of fellowship, of white-knight syndrome that Dan just can’t seem to help, is what actually saves his own ass. I don’t want to give the ending away, it is a rather neat and heartfelt way of wrapping the entire situation up before the movie ends. It is kind a shame that that sort of thing almost never happens in real life and far too many HIV+ folks who need all sorts of medications to stay alive and even semi-healthy are ignored or ridiculed for it, but Pushing Dead does seem to bring their plight to life in a loving, funny, and sympathetic way.

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