Prodigal Son Returns to Roots in Out of the Closet Comedy
Sheldon (Rockmond Dunbar), a successful staff writer for a magazine in Manhattan, hasn’t been home to Georgia in over a decade, and not just because of the demands of his busy career. Seems that he’s been living a lie and hasn’t figured out how to break the news to family and friends back in his tight-knit black community that he’s a homosexual.
To protect his secret, he’s created an alter ego, and goes by the name of Patrick in New York City, where he’s secretly shacking up with a flamboyant white guy named Ryan (Joey Costello). But their gay bliss is suddenly shattered when a little angel named Gabriel (Aaron Grady Shaw) unexpectedly arrives on their doorstep.
Turns out that Gabriel is Sheldon’s ten year-old son, the result of a liaison from when he was still on the down-low. Now, the emotionally-needy kid has been sent to find his father by his paternal grandmother, Evelyn (Loretta Devine). Ill-equipped either to explain Gabriel’s appearance or to handle the responsibility of raising a child, Sheldon heads to Georgia, his young offspring in tow.
So unfolds Dirty Laundry, an out of the closet comedy written and directed by Maurice Jamal (The Skip Trip), who is perhaps best known for his numerous appearances on Dave Chappelle’s self-cancelled series on Comedy Central. The bulk of the movie takes place in and around matriarch Evelyn’s house, where we meet an array of African-American characters, familiar cookie-cutter stereotypes ranging from the Greek chorus of Bible-thumping church ladies to the shameless narcissist (Jenifer Lewis) to the clueless Neanderthal (Jamal) to the sassy trash-talker (Sommore).
Because the film’s opening act is littered with the generally jive behavior of an assortment of two-dimensional stick figures, it’s a little hard swallow the notion that Sheldon would be so readily embraced when the plot thickens upon the arrival of his lifemate. Even though homophobia is undoubtedly much more of a hurdle in the ‘hood as opposed to a light-hearted Hollywood adventure, the motley ensemble’s supportive response to Sheldon’s revealing his sexual preference proves to be a surprisingly sweet way to bring down the curtain on this well-meaning message movie.