Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gay.com Presents Film Series This Friday

Several months ago, Gay.com presented a gay themed triple bill in several cities, which included the films Misconceptions, Watercolors, and Murder in Fashion. This Friday, in conjuction with Here Films and Regent Releasing, they are opening yet another triple bill this Friday, March 26, at Clearview's Chelsea Cinema in New York, and will expand to the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles on April 2.

A scene from DREAM BOY. Photo courtesy of Regent Releasing.

Like the last series, the films are a mixed bag, but at a time when gay themed films and queer cinema in general are woefully underrepresented in mainstream culture, they cater to an often under-served market, for whom these three films may provide a welcome respite from typical, hetero-centric multiplex fare.

DREAM BOY (★★)

If you've ever seen a gay love story before, you've seen Dream Boy. Based on the novel by Jim Grimsley, Dream Boy is the tale of a shy, gay high schooler named Nathan (Stephan Bender), who moves into a small, southern town, where he meets and falls in love with his next door neighbor, Roy (Max Roeg), a closeted country boy.

It is a tentative, forbidden romance, filled with furtive glances and quiet longing over late night study session, and carried out under the nose of Nathan's abusive, alcoholic father (Thomas Jay Ryan). Filmed in sunny, nostalgic tones suggestive of its 1970s setting, Dream Boy is an often quite sweet, if cliche, love story with two genuinely likable protagonists. But its third act twist comes out of nowhere and is completely unearned, serving little narrative purpose and completely failing in its aim to explore the nature of homophobia and self loathing in an oppressive, intolerant society. It feels like a cheat, going for the typical gay love story finale rather than rising above it and bringing something new to the table.

Directed by James Bolton; Stars Stephan Bender, Max Roeg, Thomas Jay Ryan, Diana Scarwid; Rated R for sexual content, and some violence including a rape - involving teens.

JUST SAY LOVE (★½)

Just Say Love would make a very good play.

Which, in fact, it is. But this is not a play, it is a movie. The dynamics are just different, but Bill Humphreys' adaptation of David J. Mauriello's play remains stubbornly trapped on the stage. It is an interesting look at the arbitrary nature of gender when it comes to love, and Platonic notions of love as seen through the eyes of two men - one an openly gay man and the other a straight, married construction worker who meet one day on a park bench and strike up no strings attached physical relationship. For one, it is just an easy means of sexual release, but for the other it comes to mean much more.

This is a movie of ideas, and they aren't necessarily bad ones, but this is not a movie, it's a filmed stage production - and not in Brechtian Dogville sense. Just Say Love's screenplay is frustratingly theatrical, based around conversations between the two men and a couple of monologues, broken up only by the occasional scene change or lighting cue to denote the passage of time. It's a story I would very much like to see on stage, and as a souvenir of a play it's well produced, but as a film it just doesn't work.

Directed by Bill Humphreys; Stars Matthew Jaeger, Robert Mammana; Not Rated.

MANUELA Y MANUEL (★½)

Of all the films playing as part of the Gay.com film series, this charming Spanish comedy is the most easily recommendable. It's an infectious screwball comedy, and while it often plays out like a second rate Almodovar impersonation, the crowd pleasing effectiveness of Manuela y Manuel is hard to deny.

Manuel is known to most people as Manuela, a flamboyant drag queen with no use for men's clothing. His life is in crisis, his longtime boyfriend, Toño, has left him, and he spends most of his time pining away for him in long, rambling internet videos. Until one day, his best friend, Coca, gets pregnant from a soldier who runs off as soon as the deed is done. Afraid to face her strict, traditional family, she asks Manuel to pose as her fiance, and the baby's father, to soften the blow. Of course, what is supposed to be a one time thing is turned into a huge affair as Coca's father demands the two of them marry, and Manuel is forced to act like a man for the first time in his life.

Manuela y Manuel is a big, loud, gaudy party of a film that walks the line between screwball comedy and ludicrous soap opera. It may often be over the top, and Coca is a woefully underwritten and under-explored character, but the film delivers in its attempt to provide a raucous good time.

Directed by Raúl Marchand Sánchez; Stars Humberto Busto, Elena Iguina, Luz María Rondón, Emmanuel Sunshine Logroño, Marian Pabón; Rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving sexuality and language.

Dream Boy, Just Say Love and Manuela y Manuel open Friday, March 26, at Clearview's Chelsea Cinema in New York.

3 comments:

Sam Juliano said...

I saw DREAM BOY last night, and I must agree with your summary judgement. The lead actors were unappealing and amateurish, and the story was rife with the usual stereotypes complete with a ludicrous, albeit predictable finale. I hope to see the other two films in the festical, as I did manage the first trio months back, but I'm sure time will permit.

Matthew Lucas said...

JUST SAY LOVE is really skippable. It would be fine on stage, but I don't see a point in the film version.

MANUELA Y MANUEL is cute though.

None of them are as bad this time as MURDER IN FASHION though, thank god.

Sam Juliano said...

"None of them are as bad this time as MURDER IN FASHION though, thank god."

Oh God yes, I can believe that!