Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: "Watercolors"

Gay cinema, like many niche market sub-genres, is often overlooked not only for its potentially divisive subject matter, but also, frankly, because of its frequent lack of quality. There are occasional break outs of course, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but films like this (as groundbreaking as they may be) are often much "safer" than their low budget brethren, made innocuous enough for America's multiplexes and mainstream audiences. They have to have an appeal beyond an exclusively gay audience.

We have yet to see the arrival of the queer cinema revolution that many have hoped for after the success of Brokeback Mountain. Mainstream films dealing with gay themes have been few and far between, with films like David Oliveras' Watercolors relegated to the ghetto of playing gay themed film festivals or premiering on television stations like Logo that cater specifically to gay audiences.

Enter Gay.com, which is sponsoring a film series opening at the Quad in New York and the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles, featuring Watercolors and two other gay themed films, Misconceptions and Murder in Fashion.

Photo courtesy of Here Films.

Admittedly, Watercolors has the production values of a made for television movie one might see on Logo, a kind of Lifetime movie for gay people (or maybe I should say, a Lifetime movie ABOUT gay people). It's the story of an artist named Danny Wheeler flashing back on his childhood as he opens his first art show and remembering his inspiration, his first love, Carter. Danny was a shy, artistic teenager with few friends, while Carter was a troubled jock. New to the school and deep in the closet, he meets Danny when his father asks Danny's mother to keep him at her house while he goes away for the weekend. The two form a tentative friendship, which soon begins to blossom into something more. Soon, Carter is spending more and more time at Danny's house, posing for Danny's increasingly erotic sketches. But while Carter tries to keep their friendship a secret, the homophobic jocks on Carter's swim team soon begin to suspect, and the pressures of young, forbidden love in an unaccepting world threaten to destroy them both.

Photo courtesy of Here Films.

It's a pretty standard gay romance, as gay romances go. Two young high school students, one in the closet and unwilling to admit to himself or to others that he is in love with a boy, fall in love amidst prejudice and hatred, while hurtling toward an inevitably tragic foregone conclusion. But Oliveras treats his subject with great tenderness, and its hard not to get caught up in their story. While he may use some admittedly goofy directorial flourishes that threaten to veer into gay porn territory (the love scene in the bedroom with the symbolic imaginary rainstorm feels painfully overwrought), the two young leads are endearlingly likable with their non-professional earnestness.

Watercolors is by no means a great step forward for gay cinema. It is unlikely to break out as a mainstream hit nor does it shake off the trappings of a low budget niche film. It is, however, a very likable and often quite moving piece of entertainment, a film likely to please its target audience without breaking any new ground.

GRADE - ★★½ (out of four)

WATERCOLORS; Directed by David Oliveras; Stars Tye Olson, Kyle Clare, Ellie Araiza, Casey Kramer, Jeffrey Lee Woods, William Charles Mitchell, Brandon Lybrand, Ian Rhodes, Edward Finlay; Not Rated; Opens Friday, 1/22, at the Quad Cinemas in New York, and the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles as part of Gay.com's film series.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Start featuring some Indian Gay Films like the nice movie "My Brother Nikhil"