Love on the download

“eCupid” is a Queer RomCom that I watch frequently. Chock full of cutesy puns and quips, J.C. Calciano has created a film with an important message: don’t let an impromptu reaction to the dreaded “seven year itch”, often a result of stagnation and boredom, ruin your relationship! But not everyone is a fan; nor is this film perfect. Let’s break down why, despite some key issues, “eCupid” remains one of my favourite queer films.

Still from "eCupid" - Marshall sitting at his work desk, zoned out

Synopsis of “eCupid”

Starting with a montage of their seven year’s together, we watch as Marshall (Houston Rhines) and Gabe’s (Noah Schuffman) seven year relationship developed. However things today are a tad dull. Marshall is stuck in a dead-end ad job while Gabe struggles to keep his cafe afloat. They’re not in sync, and even the romance has fizzled away. While working late one night, Marshal gets sent a profile from his friend Chris (Andy Anderson) who reminds him to stay away from other guys; ignore the “seven year itch!” Suddenly an ad for “eCupid”pops up, guaranteeing to help you find your perfect match. After agreeing to the full terms, his laptop shuts down while installing the app. But during the night, his laptop and phone suddenly turn on! Scanning through is files and online profiles, the installation is finally complete.

The next morning at work, Marshall’s boredom continues while his boss (John Callahan) gives him yet another boring watch ad. Things get a bit brighter when Keith, the new intern (Matt Lewis), stops by and encourages Marshall to go out with him for lunch to celebrate Marshall’s 30th birthday; live a little! Except while at the go-go bar, Keith disappears – and a young skater, Myles (Mike Manning), slips in and starts to flirt with Marshall. Despite mocking his “middle age” status, Myles “bumps” Marshall his info for later. Back at home, Gabe tries to surprise Marshal with a birthday dinner – until Gabe’s phone goes off. It’s a message from an app online saying that Marshall feels stuck and miserable in his relationship. Ouch! Marshal finally admits that he’s bored and lonely. But Gabe doesn’t take it well and walks out, to the shock and dismay of Marshall who isn’t sure what he wants right now.

The next day after work, Chris’ friend Jimmy messages Marshal asking to meet up; Marshall agrees. But when Jimmy (Chris Rubeiz) finally shows up,  he doesn’t quite look like his photos. Marshall keeps making things awkward & worse before Jimmy finally calls it quits and leaves. Meanwhile at the cafe, Gabe tries to call Marshall – right as Marshall tries to call Gabe; neither call goes through. The following morning, the doorbell and a notification from eCupid wakes Marshall. It’s a hot frat boy, Dawson (Galen Drever), who quickly tries to seduce Marshall while stripping. But Marshall can’t go through with it, despite Dawson’s persistence. It’s not what he though it’d be. Suddenly another guy is at the door – it’s the party planner, Carson (Gary Riotto), whom Marshall just hired for his party tonight. Marshall tries to refuse, but his denials are overrun until he finally caves. Later that night, Gabe decides to swing by his place to talk to Marshall. But he ends up walking in on Keith kissing Marshal. Marshall tries to explain, but Gabe doesn’t want to listen.

At the cafe the next morning, a new guy Richard (Brad Pennington) swings by. When Gabe mentions that he’s not sure if he has a boyfriend anymore, Richard asks Gabe out for dinner. Gabe tries to get out of it, saying he’s not ready yet – but Richard persists before Gabe finally agrees. But that night, despite texting he was coming to get some stuff, Gabe opens the door to Keith’s hand down Marshal’s pants! Marshall tries to reach out to Gabe, but eCupid blocks the call! Finding his birthday present from Gabe, a photo of them at their lake cabin, forces Marshall to reminisce about happier times with Gabe. Waking up the next morning, Marshal decides to swing by the cafe to talk to Gabe but ends up spying on Richard confirming his date with Gabe!

Back at work, Marshal finally finished the ad project but when Keith swings by to head out to dinner, he explains that he has to wait to drop it off with his boss. Keith tells him to leave it at his office and text his boss; but eCupid deletes the message! While out at dinner, Keith & Marshal end up at the same restaurant as Gabe & Richard. As Keith downs the vodkas and stirs the pot between them, things get tense for all. Marshal tries to make plans to talk to Gabe, but Gabe is only concerned about getting his stuff and ends up ending their date.

Dejected, Keith drags Marshall off to a house party where Marshal ends up getting tossed into the pool. While there, Marshal’s phone suddenly sends the text to his boss with his location. But Marshal only notices their home webcam turned on, showing Gabe packing up his things. Marshal finally accepts that he loves Gabe and wants no one else! But as Marshal is about to leave, his boss shows up already upset with Marshal. When Marshal doesn’t have the project on him, he’s fired. For once, Marshall isn’t upset – and finally gets a break when eCupid messages that his cab has arrived. Except Gabe isn’t home when Marshal finally returns.

But when Marshal stops by the cafe with flowers to apologise, he is shocked to learn the cafe has closed – that’s how disconnected they were. Reminiscing of their time together at home, eCupid continues to intervene with both Marshal and Gabe’s phones. It’s a notification that Gabe is single finally forces Marshal to accept how he has messed up. “Congratulations, true love will soon be yours.” eCupid chimes back. But it gives Marshal an idea. He rallies all the guys he’s met recently along with Keith to reveal his big plan: rebrand and save Gabe’s cafe! But when he swings by to tell Gabe, his friend Chris reveals that Gabe is moving back in with his folks. eCupid is there to save the day with “boyfriend” GPS, showing that Gabe has stopped by their cabin. Can Marshal get to him in time. And more importantly, will he be able to apologise and salvage their relationship?

After leaving the cabin, Gabe stops in at the Divinity Diner for a quick bite. After missing Gabe at the cabin and running out of gas, Marshal’s phone directs him to the same diner! Waitress Venus (Morgan Fairchild), chats up and persuades Marshal to have a slice of pie and tell her what’s bothering him. Marshal final admits that losing his boyfriend Gabe actually made him realise how much he loves him and wants him back. He only wants Gabe, no one else. Venus tells him that you have to work at a relationship and will be back shortly with his slice of pie. But when it’s delivered, it’s actually Gabe who brings it out! Turns out Marshall “called” Gabe’s phone – he heard the entire story. They both apologise and agree to give it another shot. While driving home, Gabe tries to tell Marshal about the cafe – but Marshal finally reveals his plan – and a busy cafe! He started his own advertising firm and is hoping Gabe hires him to help brand the cafe! They finally kiss and all is well.

Still from "eCupid" - Gabe and his friend pack up the cafe

The Not-So-Good

If we go off IMDb’s rating and reviews, “eCupid” is a film that people either love – or hate. Unfortunately, there are some issues with this queer RomCom that cannot be ignored. As a result, even my own rating remains rather middle-ground. But what are the weak areas? Nearly all of them.

Starting with the worst offender, the script is not only melodramatic but has elements that are unbelievable. A dating app that takes over not only your laptop, your phone – but your boyfriend’s as well? Even a good hacker would have a tough time managing such a feat, yet the entire plot of “eCupid” hinges upon believing this alternate reality. At first, it’s cute and comical. But then the app REALLY takes over and its actions enter into the absurd. To make matters worse, Marshall is oblivious – even when things become so ridiculous that even a blind man could see that someone is screwing around with his life.

To his credit, Houston Rhines as Marshall, keeps up his character portray despite these cringe-worthy “interventions” from Divinity and eCupid. But while Marshal is a realistic portray of someone who gets caught up in a whirlwind of events out to get him, he’s one of the better characters! I found Noah Schuffman’s portrayal of Gabe quite melodramatic and better suited for a soap opera. Equally problematic are the guys that eCupid tries to match Marshal with: Jimmy, the skater, the jock, and even the flamboyant party planned. It’s as if they took each character’s stereotype, tripled the stereotypical aspects, and spit out the actual character. While it’s initially cute and comical, any humour quickly dies off.

The Good

But before you think I hated “eCupid”, let’s go over what worked well. (And for the record, I actually enjoy this queer RomCom!) While there are plenty of issues with the script, there are equally some decent moments. There are a slew of whimsical and cute quips from nearly everyone. Are they cheesy and often eye-rolling? Absolutely! But that’s actually what makes “eCupid” so enjoyable. One of my favourites is when Richard is flirting with Gabe about their upcoming date. He responds to Gabe’s “The customer comes first” with “…hopefully at the same time!” There are plenty more throughout the film, so keep your ears peeled.

But perhaps the best part of “eCupid” is the last fifteen minutes. Marshall finally realises that his perfect guy was Gabe all along and instead of trying to figure out why they fell apart, he puts everything into getting Gabe back. Even though the deus ex machina with Venus is a bit over the top, it somehow brings the prior train wreck script into cohesion. Let’s not ignore Morgan Fairchild as diner waitress Venus (and presumably the “person” behind eCupid’s interventions as well, since she voices all of the verbal eCupid messages). While she’s perhaps the film’s biggest named star, her short appearance is important: in a twisted use of dramatic irony, she ends up bringing Marshal and Gabe back together so they can sort out their problems – all while giving us the crucial message that relationships require love and work to thrive. It’s a wonderful message and the overall theme of “eCupid”. I just wish that the rest of the film could’ve been a better vehicle to bring the message to life.

Still from "eCupid" - Gabe and Marshall sitting in diner with waitress Venus behind the counter

So which camp are you on; are you a lover or a hater of “eCupid”. Personally, I enjoy every time I watch this queer RomCom because it comically paints how a stable relationship can be shaken by the dreaded “seven year itch”. [Note – I cannot personally attest to the accuracy of the itch, given that I’ve never had a relationship last that long!] Throw in an omniscient and eerily controlling app, things quickly fall apart for Marshall. But in the end, along with a little “divine” intervention, he realises his wrongs and fights to get his man back. And THAT is why I think everyone should watch this film at least once. It can even be a great “Netflix and chill” date – after all, I first watched it while doing just that! Regardless, find yourself a copy and enjoy a few good laughs along the way.

Queer Relevance of “eCupid”

There’s the obvious gay relevance in “eCupid”, Marshall and Gabe have been together for seven years in a committed relationship. In an oeuvre of coming out films, hookup films, and those that depict gay men as sluts, this itself is rather enjoyable. But unfortunately, that nasty “seven year itch” comes along and ruins it all! Is the seven year itch real – or just a social misconception? Utilising a handful of gay stereotypes, this queer film tries to answer that question. There’s also something here to be said about the harmfulness of dating apps and boredom within a relationship; they can be disastrous!

But stereotypes are also stereotypes – and “eCupid” uses plenty of them as Marshal searches for his “perfect match”! While they are often rooted in plenty of truth, we have to be careful to not automatically believe that a person is only their stereotype. In fact, another key relevance in “eCupid” is that they try to break down the stereotypes and show how people are more than their first impression and/or stereotype.