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No matter how hard you fight it, adolescence is always awkward. That’s certainly the case for Reel Affirmations, which turns 15 this year. The latest installment of D.C.’s gay and lesbian film festival, which, at 60 offerings, has almost doubled in size over the past decade and a half, displays promise and maturity here, ruttishness and juvenility there.
Maybe it’s just that, for a festival professing to “share experiences that had previously been silenced,” the bar to be jumped 15 years on is all that much higher. Cable-saturated audiences now have their pick of ’round-the-clock gay-themed text and subtext, and a night at the cineplex will soon enough offer A-list Hollywood hunks exchanging passionate cowboy kisses. Or maybe it’s that we’ve grown weary of watching less-than-stellar gay flicks just because they’re, well, gay. Either way, circa 2005, we expect our local GLBT film fest to do more than give us a tour of the cinematic gay ghetto.
Happily, the Washington City Paper’s critics found a number of films well worth catching among the 20 Reel Affirmations selections we previewed—and the ratio of good to bad is much better than 1 in 10. Among the dramas, we were taken with the delicate, finely acted Loggerheads, which follows a series of intertwined relationships among North Carolinians. Several foreign entries also caught our eyes, particularly the humane, true-to-life When I’m 64, a British coming-out and coming-together story set in a couple’s twilight years, and the gentle, affecting Butterfly, the tale of two women braving May-December in politically turbulent Hong Kong. We also liked the somewhat off-kilter Odete, from Portugal, a disturbing story of love and grief played out at their extremes.
As usual, this year’s comedies were fairly frothy, but we found some real substance under all the tiny bubbles. The standout was The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green, a funny, visually arresting romantic comedy based on the gay-weekly-syndicated comic strip of the same name. We also enjoyed Guys and Balls, a predictable but satisfyingly sweet German film about, yes, guys and balls but soccer, too. And for the pure, guilty pleasure of it, we gave in to Freshman Orientation, a romp that upholds the most enduring of Reel Affirmations traditions: silly fun.
After all, the best thing about being 15 is that you’re still allowed your silly fun.
Three Dancing Slaves
In the manner of Ma Mère—which was also scripted by Christophe Honoré—Three Dancing Slaves is a vigorous if murky exercise in Gallic scandalousness. It’s set in a small town where women have apparently been banned, perhaps in deference to the recent death of the three protagonists’ mother. Only the youngest, Olivier (Thomas Dumerchez), is clearly gay. All three, however, dabble in activities that go beyond mere male bonding, including raw brutality and beefcake contemplation. Marc (Nicolas Cazalé), the most troubled, is a drug dealer and user who’s spewing rage even before some local toughs make him kill his own dog. Christophe (Stéphane Rideau) gets released from prison and vows to go straight, much to Marc’s disgust. Olivier, with an Arab youth who’s secretly his lover, practices capoeira, the Brazilian martial-arts dance that’s the source of the film’s English-language title. Set to thrashing metal-punk, actor-turned-director Gaël Morel’s latest includes lots of nudity, albeit no explicit sex. As the handheld camera intimately traces all that taut, young flesh, Three Dancing Slaves achieves a sort of poetry. It’s the blankest of verse, though, with only a glimmer of narrative and even less psychological insight.
At 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Lincoln Theatre
Sure, Strange Bedfellows unfolds in the rustic splendor of Yackandandah, Australia. But the premise of Dean Murphy’s most recent feature is pure Hollywood: Duped by his ex-wife into a business scheme that sent the profits in her direction and the tax liability in his, Vince (Paul Hogan) convinces his best mate, Ralph (Michael Caton), to file as his same-sex partner. A new gay-marriage law will give them five years of retroactive tax relief, and Vince assures his cold-footed pal that “some public-service dickhead puts it in a computer, and we’re eligible for the tax cuts. End of story.” What follows is rather brisk, somewhat entertaining, and almost entirely predictable: Faster than you can say “Green Card,” Mr. & Mr. Dundee are under investigation. Naturally, the two straight men have no choice but to (a) take mannerism lessons from the local hairdresser; (b) surf gay porn; and (c) don tight shorts (Hogan) and leather (Caton) during a fact-finding trip to Sydney’s gay district. And wouldn’t you know it, the investigator (Pete Postlethwaite) comes to town just in time for the joint fire brigade/ladies’ auxiliary ball, creating the perfect rostrum for Ralph’s requisite Heartfelt Speech. Here Strange Bedfellows surprises a little bit, with Ralph stumping more for privacy than acceptance. The latter might be the better goal, but some things are apparently harder to sell in Yackandandah than Hollywood.—Joe Dempsey
At 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Lincoln Theatre
The Truth or Consequences of Delmas Howe
You might assume that the 70-year-old neoclassical painter featured in The Truth or Consequences of Delmas Howe is the topic of director Matt Sneddon’s sprawling debut documentary. But it’s just as likely the artist’s odd little hometown, Truth or Consequences, N.M., where the Lord is feared, gays are closeted, and the “unofficial town historian” is a guy who rattles off Bible verses while carrying around a Snow White doll. After some introductory text briefly explains Howe’s most ambitious project, Stations: A Gay Passion, a series of male nudes inspired by the “sexual theatre” that flourished on New York’s Chelsea Piers in the ’70s, the story becomes an overview of his beloved “T or C.” Howe returned home after allegedly missing “the incredible perfume” of cowboys and cattle ranches, but his story becomes harder to follow from there. Characterizations of the town are interrupted by talk of the iconography of cowboys in gay art, and when the movie goes back to Howe, it’s to discuss—yawn—the “cultural explosion” of the ’60s and ’70s or pay a visit to erotic-art collector friends who dub their home the Penis Palace. Truth or Consequences regains some focus near the end, when Howe speaks of a lover who died of AIDS and how the epidemic was the inspiration for Stations—which, shown complete in a gallery, takes on a power not evident in the borderline-cheesy work-in-progress seen for most of the movie.
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Goethe-Institut
When I’m 64
Toward the end of When I’m 64, widower cabdriver Ray remarks to former teacher Jim, “[It’s] such a short little life.” Actually, it’s something they both sorta knew already. As Jon Jones’ made-for-the-BBC feature opens, both men are staring down the selves they’ve spent 60-some years becoming: Veteran street brawler Ray (Paul Freeman) refrains from slugging an opponent he’s got pinned to a wall; Jim (Alun Armstrong), retiring from the boarding school where he’s spent most of his life either studying or teaching Latin, finally bucks himself up enough to jump from the school’s highest diving platform. Despite their radically different backgrounds, they meet (Jim’s cloistered life apparently hasn’t kept him from learning the old oops-I-left-my-safari-jacket-in-the-back-of-your-cab bit), grow to be friends, and then, slowly, become something more. That the film ends with a suspicious bit of rom-com meteorological trickery doesn’t spoil what came before, during such pleasingly mundane circumstances as eating Chinese food and learning to drive. Jones and screenwriter Tony Grounds—not to mention their two leads—present a humane, thoughtful, and realistic tale of courtship between a pair of believable not-too-late bloomers. Freeman may be a long way from his Raiders of the Lost Ark days, but let’s face it: 64’s most explicit scene would lose quite a bit if he still looked anything like that dashing French archeologist. —JD
At 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Lincoln Theatre
Guys and Balls
Here’s a bad way to realize your dreams of soccer stardom: Give up a last-second penalty kick, then make a drunken pass at one of your teammates. Off his team and out of the closet, small-town baker’s son Ecki (Maximilian Brückner) challenges his homophobic former mates to a game against an all-gay soccer team. Now all he has do to is find one. So Ecki journeys to the big city of Dortmund, where he enlists his loyal sister, Susanne (Lisa Maria Potthoff), to help him recruit players. What happens next in this sometimes campy, uneven film is utterly predictable. Director Sherry Hormann and writer Benedikt Gollhardt trot out all the old sports-movie tropes—the crusty, has-been coach, the “Eye of the Tiger” training montage, the Big Tryout scene—as Ecki slowly but surely finds his identity. Thank goodness, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, and there are some genuinely funny moments, usually courtesy of Ecki’s new teammates, a veritable rainbow of wink-winking stock characters: an effeminate Turk who carries a photo of David Beckham in his wallet, a trio of BDSM bikers, a Nordic hottie (David Rott) who becomes Ecki’s love interest. Though it offers few surprises, Guys and Balls does have charm. And its heart is ultimately in the right place: It pokes fun at anti-gay prejudices way more than it indulges in gay stereotypes. —Huan Hsu
At 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Lincoln Theatre
When a vampire movie involves both a “formula” and a “serum,” you know it’s gonna be bad. And there’s never really much hope for director Joe Sullivan’s debut after the opening scene, in which craggly lead vampire Dr. Bruno Gant (Tom Cahill), proprietor of a gay bar, cries “Ah, jes!” before biting into the neck of the angry customer who dared ask, “Are you the fucking manager?” The gist of Dead Serious—script courtesy of Sullivan and co-writer Michael J. Hein—is the same as any other horror movie’s: People are scared of the unknown. It’s just that this time, the people are the Christian Action Army, and they have a zealous mission to rid the world of homosexuals. Through reversion therapy. By turning them into vampires. They take over the bar, an accountant (Michael Weingartner) turns into a crime fighter, and a PTL parody called the Decency Channel films what turns into a weird hostage situation. Oh, and at some point, someone starts going on about a “health-food restaurant.” (Was this movie really made in 2005?) The end, at least, gets so ridiculous that it’s entertaining, with a lot of squawking—yes, squawking—and blood involved. Though the filmmakers would like to bludgeon you with their message of tolerance, you might never know: The bizarre scheming of their villains confuses even the other characters. “I couldn’t hear it all,” the accountant says, “but a lot of it didn’t make sense!” Amen. —TO
At 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at the Lincoln Theatre
Like the similarly themed Hard Pill, Almost Normal is a cautionary tale about a gay guy’s dream of being straight. (Apparently, this is something we all dream about.) But unlike its more restrained counterpart, Almost Normal feels more like a sermon than a film. The story revolves around Brad (J. Andrew Keitch), a miserable, self-loathing antihero whose dream of being “normal” comes true when a freak car accident sends him back in time to high school. This time around, however, the tables are turned: Gays are normal, and “breeders” are freaks. All fine and well until Brad begins to realize…he’s straight! There’s plenty of material there for a smart and clever satire, but instead of tapping it, writer-director Marc Moody, amazingly, opts to construct a trite and sappy dramedy. What would the world—and, more specifically, high school—be like if gays were suddenly on top? Apparently, it would be a place heaving with droopy, PSA-style messages about how gay people really are normal and how everybody else should stop being so mean to them, gosh darn it. “The minute you accept that you’re different is the moment you become normal,” sermonizes Brad. In other words, as real affirmations go, Reel Affirmations can do better. —Mario Correa
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the DCJCC
Like a Brother
Those who appreciate hot but boring French imports may have the patience for Bernard Alapetite and Cyril Legann’s 50-minute film. But it’s unlikely. The story of Sébastien (Benoît Delière), a gay 18-year-old who moves from a small town to Paris so he can come out of the closet, is told with such inelegant shifts back and forth in time that you may spend too much time figuring out what just happened to pay attention to whatever’s going on in the present. When Like a Brother opens, for example, Sébastien is known as Zack (“You should be glad of a reason to celebrate with a name like yours!” a lover tells him on his birthday); the film then jumps back to when Sébastien was hanging out with a group of hometown friends, including Romain (Thibault Boucaux), the best bud whom he falls in love with. Then he’s shown moving in with his dad in Paris, though he still seems to be—huh?—spending an awful lot of time with his old friends. Turns out those are all just flashbacks. The badly articulated point of it all is that Sébastien/Zack tries the loveless club scene and the impersonal personals, but he’ll never find a substitute for true love Romain. After sitting through Like a Brother’s fair amount of sex, even more confusion, and abrupt ending, even most Francophiles will have to admit it’s hot but inane. —TO
At 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the DCJCC
Aishite Imasu 1941
Love for the enemy is a delicate subject—one that proves too tricky for director Joel Lamangan’s treatment of romance between a Filipino man and the officer who commands the brutal Japanese troops occupying the town of San Nicolas. As the invaders arrive, Japanese commander Ichiru (Jay Manalo) spots Ignacio (Dennis Trillo) onstage, wearing a gown and singing an operatic tune. Entranced, Ichiru asks to meet the performer, who’s identified as Inya, actually the name of his female best friend. The local resistance leaders insist that Ignacio, who’s not a full-time cross-dresser, become “Inya” and report to them on the Japanese officer’s plans. He reluctantly agrees, but his handlers regret the ploy after their spy falls for Ichiru. (The Japanese part of the movie’s title can be translated as “I Have Loving.”) The film, which also tells the story of the real Inya (Judy Ann Santos) and her husband, an anti-Japanese fighter, combines swooning romance with brutal battle and torture scenes and suffers from inadvertently comic accents and dialogue. Ichiru speaks English like a ’30s stock character, and Ignacio must utter such lines as “My dick isn’t patriotic.” The movie is, though: In its version of World War II, the Japanese are defeated without any American assistance. —MJ
At 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Lincoln Theatre
Imitating a Pedro Almodóvar film so thoroughly that Almodóvar should receive a credit, Pablo Sofovich’s The Favor is a zany Argentine comedy about a pair of lesbians who want to have a baby. After whimsical credits, the movie opens in the women’s bright, multicolored apartment. Roberta (Victoria Onetto) is trying to decide on a sexy outfit while Mora (Bernarda Pagés) is preparing oysters and tossing Viagra into a subtly marked glass—see, Mora’s brother, Felipe (Javier Lombardo), is coming for a visit, Roberta is ovulating, and the favor is gonna be a doozy. Would a woman really let a very loud porno keep running in the background while telling her brother she’s a lesbian? Who cares? The movie’s biggest lapse of judgment is Martín Greco’s script, which quickly turns repetitive with exchanges of “You’re crazy!” as everyone hashes out the matter at hand by yelling over each other. It doesn’t help, either, that Felipe’s strict Catholic girlfriend (Mariana Briski) and his potential business partner in artificial turkey insemination (Luis Margani) also show up at the women’s apartment for maximum wackiness. “How many stations of the cross do I have to go through?” Felipe asks. Unless you have an extremely high tolerance for chaotic fluff, you’ll want to bail out at No. 4: He Meets His Blessed Mothers. —TO
At 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the DCJCC
The Reception, writer-director John G. Young’s second film, is professional-looking, well-acted, confidently paced—and hard to like. First, you may have trouble relating to its characters—unless you’re also the type who dances in your home every night or socializes with guests while standing bundled to your eyeballs out in the snow, drinking wine with a glass in one hand and a bottle in the other. Second, the introduction of the main couple, African-American painter Martin (Wayne Lamont Sims) and French floozy Jeannette (Pamela Stewart), is head-spinningly misleading, with Martin being shown waking up next to Jeannette, eating the dinner she cooks for him, and cozying up with her as both read in their fabulous country home. So when Jeannette’s long-lost daughter, Sienna, brings home her unannounced new husband, Andrew, you’re sorta surprised when Sienna informs him, “Martin’s gay.” When Andrew asks why she didn’t mention this before, she says, “You didn’t ask”—and you’re finally convinced that they’re all a bunch of nitwits. There are still secrets to reveal, though, and these truths actually make a few “whaaa?” moments a whole lot more reasonable as the visit-gone-wrong story moves along. If you can accept Young’s contrivances, The Reception offers a few gut-wrenching glimpses of the despair that can result when two people are absolutely dependent on one another. And if the characters still bug you as the movie goes on, don’t worry: Everyone has a turn getting burned before it’s all over. —TO
At 9:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, at the Lincoln Theatre; $6
A Love to Hide
It’s 1942 in Paris when Sarah digs herself out of a basement and tears the yellow star off her jacket. The only survivor of a massacre that claimed her family, Sarah (Louise Monot) seeks refuge with her childhood crush, Jean (Jérémie Renier). He takes her to his friend Philippe (Bruno Todeschini), who prints fake IDs for Jews, French Resistance members, and other enemies of the Nazis. That’s not his only secret: He and Jean are lovers. Once Sarah’s shock and Philippe’s jealousy are overcome, the three attractive subversives make a lovely trio. But trouble arrives in the form of Jean’s younger brother, Jacques (Nicolas Gob), a black-marketeer, Nazi collaborator, and gay-hater who has always resented Jean’s higher standing with their parents. Soon, Jean has been arrested, and the horrors begin. With its graphic scenes of torture, murder, and concentration-camp existence, director Christian Faure’s made-for-TV movie doesn’t sugarcoat the sufferings of Jews and gays under Nazi control, and the final act is suitably unconsoling. That doesn’t mean that the film is naturalistic, however. Indeed, its neat coincidences and juxtapositions are distractingly melodramatic. As vividly as it evokes Europe in the early ’40s, A Love to Hide is a little too reminiscent of Hollywood in the ’50s. —MJ
At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Lincoln Theatre; $6
Enter the Phoenix
Hong Kong director Stephen Fung’s gangster comedy includes a lot of expected elements along with one that’s something of a surprise: a dignified gay action hero. When the leader of the Red Honor triad dies, his underlings travel to Bangkok to find the late boss’s long-estranged son, Georgie (Daniel Wu), who’s now the head chef in an upscale restaurant. Georgie doesn’t want to take over the crime family, but his straight roommate, Sam (Eason Chan), thinks the gig would be great fun and convinces Georgie to switch identities with him. Proclaimed “a king among fruits,” Sam is taken to Hong Kong and installed as the new chief. Luckily, Georgie accompanies him: A rival gang’s lieutenant intends to kill Red Honor’s new head, and Georgie is much more handy in a street fight than Sam. Most of the gags are broad and stereotypical, and a subplot that sends a mobster’s daughter in pursuit of both Sam and Georgie just won’t quit. But the action sequences are kinetic and clever—watch out for that pig’s head!—and the movie ends with a cute cameo. What’s most interesting, though, is Wu’s turn as Georgie, a matter-of-factly gay hero who upends expectations as neatly as he parries a blow or replates a dessert. —MJ
At 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the Lincoln Theatre; $6
The ex-gay movement gets an unnecessary shot in the arm in Hard Pill, the story of a man who attempts to turn straight with the help of an experimental drug. His name is Tim (Jonathan Slavin), and he’s about as unheroic as a gay protagonist can get: unhappy, unattractive, and in love with his straight best friend. But though this “self-hating, fucked-up faggot” (and that’s just what his friends call him) looks on paper like the ideal candidate for, well, any medication, really, Tim soon finds out that life as an ex-gay ain’t a barrel of laughs. Writer-director John Baumgartner fashions a generally challenging story about the meaning of identity and the perils of resisting it. The script’s resonance lies not so much in the experiences of Tim, who’s just too drippy and unsympathetic to register, but in the conflicted reactions to Tim’s transformation by his (admittedly stereotypical) friends. It’s surprisingly moving watching Tim’s fag hag fall for her now-straight buddy, or Tim’s straight pal mourn the loss of his sensitive gay sidekick. But perhaps the biggest surprise is that Baumgartner tends to resist the temptation to get too preachy with a subject that’s tailor-made for the pulpit. When a film about turning gays straight contains only one reference to the Holocaust, it’s time to count your blessings. —MC
At 9:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, at the E Street Cinema; $6
Filmgoers taken in by the program’s promise of “hard male bodies and sexually explosive situations” will likely be jarred by this film, a dark and sometimes loopy portrayal of loss and madness. Ana Cristina de Oliveira stars as Odete, a sullen, just-dumped supermarket attendant hellbent on getting pregnant. Nuno Gil is Rui, a muscled bartender grieving the sudden death of his beloved boyfriend, Pedro (João Carreira), Odete’s upstairs neighbor. Rui struggles to overcome his grief but is tormented by the omnipresent Odete, who herself is obsessed with Pedro and claims to be carrying his child. Director João Rodrigues and co-writer Paulo Rebelo fashion a peculiar but generally gripping story about the power of grief and longing. In Rui and Odete, the filmmakers present characters whose inability to cope with loss—both real and perceived—opens a convincing path to madness. Rodrigues manages to keep the pace brisk and the tension high, in part due to some quirky touches—an apparition here, a freaky sex scene there. The freakiest is either incredibly disturbing or utterly laughable—but either way, it doesn’t skimp on the hard male bodies.—MC
At 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the Lincoln
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green
With its spot-on satire and meticulous tracking of queer mores, Eric Orner’s The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green comic strip has been a reliable amusement in the often-dismal gay-weekly scene. It’s every bit as amusing in George Bamber’s pleasingly snappy film translation. Meet, if you haven’t already, Ethan (Daniel Letterle), “a man unlucky in love.” (“But,” the opening titles add, “it’s his own damn fault.”) Moving from ex-boyfriend Leo (David Monahan) to hunky just-out-of-the-closet baseball player Kyle (Diego Serrano) to promiscuous club kid Punch (Dean Shelton), our 26-year-old hero manages to keep happiness at bay whenever it threatens. One might at times lose patience with Ethan, but not with the company he keeps, which includes a pair of swishy, hat-wearing confidants, an emotionally ravaged real-estate agent, and a Log Cabin Republican plugging The Gay Man’s Guide to Loving George Bush. Bamber and his collaborators have done a clever job of melding film and comic-strip frames; equally impressive, they’ve rediscovered the funny bone in Meredith Baxter. The former Family Ties star is a regular hoot as Ethan’s mom, a gay-wedding planner so focused on her work that she slaps a “Just Married” sign on the ambulance carrying away one of her grooms. —Louis Bayard
At 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at the Lincoln Theatre
In barest outline, this Hong Kong film would seem a conventional coming-out drama: Thirtysomething Flavia (Josie Ho) teaches Chinese literature to high-school girls and is married with an infant daughter. Then she falls in love with Yip (Tian Yuan), a part-time singer-songwriter and full-time free spirit who’s a decade younger. Yet rather than emphasize the predictable course of ascending romance and plummeting marriage, director Yan Yan Mak presents the story as a thematic fugue, cutting between Flavia and Yip; two of Flavia’s students, Muriel and Samantha, who attempt to run away together; and flashbacks to Flavia’s tragic teenage affair with Jin, who ultimately became a Buddhist nun in Macau. The end of that last relationship coincided with the massacre in Tiananmen Square, and Flavia and Yip’s new love is underscored by pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Political freedom includes the right to love whom you want, of course, although it’s family, not government, that intrudes in all three same-sex romances. Shot and cut in an MTV-derived style, Butterfly is gauzily pretty and gently sexy—barely an R by American standards—with a visual style that neatly matches its soundtrack of bilingual HK indie pop and ambient Icelandic murmurings. —MJ
At 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at the DCJCC
If you’re into that whole “Honesty is the best policy” thing, you may want to skip Freshman Orientation: There’s a whole lot of lyin’, schemin’, and not speakin’ up going on in writer-director Ryan Shiraki’s debut. Besides being a relatively enjoyable example of teenage fluff, the film is also downright flashy by Reel Affirmations standards: John Goodman, Rachel Dratch, and Heather Matarazzo play supporting roles, and Kaitlin Doubleday (who’s currently in the restaurant comedy Waiting…) and Sam Huntington (whose last notable project was, um, Not Another Teen Movie) play the leads. Only one of them, Goodman, actually plays a gay character, and Huntington’s Clay pretends to be. According to the program’s synopsis, that ruse allegedly opens his eyes, but c’mon: The only reason Clay—whose mistaken identity stems from a fraternity joke involving him, his passed-out roommate, and Air Supply—plays along is to get close to Amanda (Doubleday). Naturally, her own horrid sorority is having a seduce-a-freak-then-ditch-him initiation. There aren’t really any lessons learned here, but Doubleday and Huntington (whose character’s name sure fits with his resemblance to a certain American Idol) are natural and likable together, and Shiraki’s script is often quite funny. In fact, seeing Dratch’s always-drunk character cry, “I wish you were a door, baby, because I’d slam you all night long!” may single-handedly make up for all the will-they-or-won’t-they bullshit. —TO
At 9:15 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, at the Lincoln Theatre
50 Ways of
50 Ways of Saying Fabulous is one of those gay coming-of-age stories that everybody loves—for about 45 minutes. It’s the other 45 minutes that are a problem. The story revolves around Billy (Andrew Paterson), an effeminate, chubby preteen living in rural New Zealand. He befriends the school freak, Roy (Jay Collins), a sensitive kid who awakens Billy to his inner “poofster.” Billy’s discovery of his sexuality sets in motion a series of conflicts with his best friend, Lou (Harriet Beattie), his hunky ranch-hand love interest, Jamie (Michael Dorman), and Roy himself, but don’t think you know how all that plays out. 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous is really two films. The first is a genial self-discovery story in the tradition of Ma Vie en Rose, in which a sensitive gay child’s fantasy life serves as a defense against a harsh and macho outside world. The second is a darker tale that seems strangely out of whack with the rest: Billy’s fantasy life evaporates, his relationships sour, and dangerous things begin to happen. Any story can evolve, of course, but director Stewart Main (working from Antipodean author Graeme Aitken’s novel) doesn’t so much shift direction as lose it. It’s not clear at the end whether the various pieces—gay kids growing up, the harshness of rural life, a quirky love triangle—add up. Billy likes to say that things are “fabulous.” But his own life is just OK. —MC
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Lincoln Theatre
Take away all the aching silences and Loggerheads easily loses half its 95-minute running time. To the credit of writer-director Tim Kirkman, this quiet registers as the most natural possible expression of his characters’ private griefs. In the first of three narrative threads, a young drifter (Kip Pardue) comes to a North Carolina beach town to protect loggerhead turtles—and is himself protected by a lonely motel keeper (Michael Kelly). Meanwhile, an emotionally starved Asheville woman (Bonnie Hunt) pines for the son she gave up for adoption more than 20 years ago, and a minister’s wife (Tess Harper) finds herself studying the two young men who have moved in across the street with a child of their own. Kirkman’s parallel story lines converge with a minimum of fuss and with full appreciation of the blockages in every human heart. The telescoping of the final sequences generates confusion over one character’s fate, and the use of emblematic devices such as the endangered reptile of the title sits a bit literarily on such a delicate movie. But under Kirkman’s stewardship, it’s the acting that shines brightest, not the symbolism. Special kudos to Chris Sarandon for his unhistrionic take on a cleric trapped by faith. —LB
At 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Lincoln Theatre; $15