Film Review: Pushing Dead at Outfest

Little did he know, at the very moment when Dan opened up his birthday card his world would begin to tumble and crash all around him just like the birthday confetti his mother had buried in the fold.

Pushing Dead is a warm and magnetic comedy drama from Director Tom E. Brown.  The film follows a struggling poet and writer named Dan Schauble (played by James Roday), who has been HIV positive for 22 years.   He splits his San Francisco flat with his dear friend Paula (Robin Weigert), who is more like a sister than a friend to Dan.

Pushing Dead

Upon receiving a birthday card and a cheerful wake-up phone call, Dan makes a quick stop by the ATM to deposit a check for $100, a gift from his mother.  However, he soon learns that this simple deposit has pushed him over the income limit for his health insurance plan, making his monthly prescription of HIV drugs – seven different medications – astronomically expensive.  Unable to pay the nearly $3,000 bill, Dan is forced to decline his prescriptions and hopes to sort out his insurance before the last pill runs out.

Tom E. Brown weaves an interesting tale that sucks the audience in from the opening sequence.  Brown manages to hit upon important issues, such as the less-than-ideal Affordable Care Act and life with now often-overlooked HIV, yet still finds time to deliver a few laughs, tender moments, and ominous predictions from a creepy little girl who pops up in each character’s life.  This talented cast is rounded out by Danny Glover and Khandi Alexander, two seasoned actors who nearly steal the spotlight with their portrayal of struggling married couple Bob and Dot.

Being HIV positive, Dan has resorted to remaining single in order to avoid those awkward conversations where he must tell any prospective love interest about his HIV status.  However, watching the years tick by and seeing his prescription drug supply running out, Dan starts to consider whether it might be nice to find someone to share his life with.  Running perpendicular to this, Dan sees Bob and Dot’s marriage begin to fall apart.  This prompts Dan to get involved in helping Bob, providing Bob with a place to sleep and helping him straighten out his marriage.

A hero for ordinary life, Dan manages to hold his world together at a time when most people would give up.  Despite his prescriptions running almost as low as his bank account, his friend Bob’s marital problems, and a quirky relationship Paula is forming with a stuffed monkey, Dan keep pushing forward one pot of coffee at a time.  That is, until an unpleasant pain in his lower abdomen sends him screaming into the ER.

At the film’s conclusion we find this dysfunctional family of San Franciscans drawn together all thanks to a kidney stone.  Bob and Dot wake up a realize they love each other too much to be apart, Paula sees the joy of singlehood through the eyes of a toy monkey, and Dan realizes that love is wherever you want to find it and family is whatever you want it to be.

5 Stars

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All pictures reproduced courtesy of Tom E. Brown

Dave Croyle

Dave Croyle

Dave Croyle is an advertising and marketing professional with a knack for building ideas and getting things done. Throughout his career he has written and produced creative work for a variety of brands, big and small. As a history buff and art geek, Dave is passionate about exploring cultures and seeing the world. Dave resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife and two dogs.