16 August 2009

Rural's (Not Entirely) FABULOUS Night

Now, before you start reading this, you should know that this isn't nor is it intended to be an exploration of the greatest GLBT films out there. This is really just me searching through Netflix and watching any gay themed film that can stream and doesn't look like a home video I made with my cousins when I was 11.

I should just say right off the bat that this was a strange project for me, unexplainable except for a strange mood combined with a fit of insomnia. I usually (for better or worse) don't bother with a lot of queer cinema. A lot of it is mopey, cliched, silly, and gratuitous, and there's only so many times you can watch a scene of a gay teen coming out to parents or clashing over religion before the movies just blend together. Nevertheless, here we go.

Were the World Mine (2008): Date rape. I'm pretty sure that's what this movie about. I know it's pitched as a sort of magical realism infused fable about high school, but I dunno. The main character mixes up an elixir and uses it to essentially have his way with the school jock. That's sweet . . . I guess. Honestly, this movie doesn't make a lick of sense, and even within the bizarre universe of this movie there are plot holes and unexplained questions that boggle the mind. Does the elixir make everyone gay or just make them fall in love with the first person they see? I really couldn't tell you. This, I think, is a CONCEPT that got out of control, burying the story under piles of glitter and sub par, Julie Taymor-lite musical interludes. That's a shame, really, because lost among all the frenzy is a pretty decent story, anchored by a solid performance by Judy McLane as the main character's single mother. The relationship between her and her son is rather honest and sweet. She's conflicted about his sexuality, sure, but her love is ferocious. It's not gone into much, but it's implied that she's in the process of getting her life back on track, getting a job as a saleswoman for a Mary Kay-like company. How she landed what is described as a pretty sweet gig isn't really explained, but that's pretty far down on the totem pole of this film's impenetrable enigmas. Zelda Williams (daughter of Robin) might be the most polished of the cast even if she's essentially playing Janis Ian.

Dorian Blues (2004): Well, this was a nice surprise. I understand that the writer/director is straight, and he doesn't approach this so much as a coming out story but more as a growing up story. Not coincidentally, this is the best of the three movies I viewed last night by a fairly large margin. Michael McMillian, who you may or may not know as the fire and brimstone reverend on "True Blood," stars as an awkward teenager coming to terms not so much with his sexuality (though there's plenty of that) but with his life in general. His father is domineering and angry, his mother is barely present, and his younger brother is the star of the family. This is a movie full of the melancholy of its lead character, but it makes room for plenty of humor alongside the pathos (for example, when Dorian's plan to have sex with a prostitute/stripper to turn him straight turns into a swing dance lesson). This is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously, but, unlike the next movie, doesn't undermine its efforts at making a point with too much whiz bang posturing. McMillian certainly isn't the twinky stereotype usually found in these kinds of films, and casting him was a wise move that enables the film to feel more at home in the real world, the world where people look like everyone else. He has a great flair for dry comedy and dramatic introsection that serve the character well. It's certainly not a perfect movie, but it's always nice to be genuinely surprised by just how much a film can deliver above expectations.

Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story (2004): Well . . . this was definitely made in Canada. Aaron Ashmore (who I honestly just assumed was Shawn Ashmore working on a very busy schedule until now) gives what I thought was a very good performance as Marc Hall, a Canadian teenager who sued his high school when they wouldn't allow his 21-year old boyfriend to come with him to prom. With blue hair and slightly eccentric clothing, Ashmore does a good job of *ahem* playing gay without turning it into a queeny stereotype, if you know what I mean. This isn't true of all gay men, but some do carry themselves a little bit differently. Whereas, say, Heath Ledger is playing it pretty straight in Brokeback Mountain, Ashmore puts a little more zing in his step, and I appreciated that he was able to walk that fine line without ever once falling into caricature. As for the rest of the movie? Eh . . . there's just a lot going on here. I did appreciate that the coming out scene was rather low key and didn't fall into the trap of becoming a cliche. His parents already know, his mother says. After all, his hair is blue and he has a poster of Celine Dion in his bedroom. But, wow . . . there are some strange things going on in this movie. I knew what I was in for when, in the first scene, the film gives us a tongue in cheek Christ metaphor followed by WACKY sound effects. Directors, don't put wacky sound effects in your movie. There was also some bizarre, Canadian version of one of those direct to DVD American Pie sequels going on involving tech geeks, three inexplicable teenage girl characters, and a lot of talk about renting hotel rooms for prom and getting laid, etc . . . I guess I'm glad this movie didn't take itself too seriously, but there's a line and I'm pretty sure you cross it when you have two older women in lawn chairs doing double takes at drag queens. You could find worse ways to spend 90 minutes, and Aaron Ashmore sure is cute, but be prepared to turn off your brain and let the bright colors and loud noises take over.