Choose Connor

Strand Releasing,

Luke Eberl

Steven Weber,
Alex D. Linz,
Escher Holloway, Rosalee Mayeux, Don McManus , Michael Welch, Erick Avari, Richard Riehle

Unrated, 109 minutes

Poisonous Politics
by Michael D. Klemm
A shorter version first appeared in abOUT, January, 2008



Tales of lost innocence can often be compelling cinema. This is the subject of Choose Connor, a new film written and directed by Luke Eberl. Owen Norris (Alex Linz) is 15; he is an academic nerd who receives the Merit Of Excellence when he graduates from Middle School. The award is presented to him by Congressman Lawrence Connor (Steven Weber), an upstanding politician who prefaces each of his speeches with the slogan, "Children are our future." Owen screws up the courage to speak with Connor and the Congressman is so impressed by the lad's grasp of politics that he invites him to visit his office.

Owen is excited when he gets there but he also questions the Congressman's endorsement of an environmental bill that offers too many corporate loopholes. Connor is stunned by the kid's knowledge but also looks as if he has just been caught with his pants down. Connor's answer becomes Owen's first exposure to political doublespeak and the young acolyte is clearly trying to reconcile this perceived dishonesty with the smiling face of the public servant whom he holds in such high esteem. Owen manages to push his misgivings aside when Connor offers him a job on his Senatorial campaign as "Youth Campaign Spokesman." Connor puts his hand on the youth's shoulder and says "I like you. Let's see if you have what it really takes to be in politics." When Owen asks what that is, Connor whispers in his ear, "Balls."

Owen will divide his time between two newfound friends that summer - Connor and the Congressman's teen-aged nephew, Caleb. The two boys are polar opposites. Owen is middle class and Caleb lives a life of idle privilege. Caleb has dropped out of school and spends his time crafting large artistic collages and sculpting S&M transgendered marionettes. Caleb introduces Owen to marijuana and asks him if he has any friends or if he just fritters his life away studying. Owen is beginning to ask himself the same questions and, though he is reveling in his newfound celebrity as Connor's youth spokesman, he also responds to his rebellious new pal. Caleb, like his uncle, also seems to enjoy touching, or sitting close to, Owen whenever the opportunity arises. This is one of two possible queer storylines that viewers will no doubt notice during the opening exposition.

The other possibility, of course, is that Connor may just be taking too much of an interest in his new protege. Connor goes out of his way to flatter the kid, announcing to all of his colleagues that Owen will someday be President of the United States. At Owen's first party, Connor tells him how "sharp" he looks and gives him a glass of Scotch (even though the boy is underage). Later, when they are alone, he remarks that they need to have a little chat - "Man to man. We're friends now." Now, it is possible that his casual remarks, as well as the hands on the lad's shoulders, could be innocent...

I will leave the rest of the film for my readers to discover on their own but it is a given that our golden boy Congressman is not what he appears to be. After all, we wouldn't have a movie if he did turn out to be Gandhi. But there is more than one way to corrupt a young man, and Connor, we will soon learn, is poison in politics personified.

Choose Connor is a very believable movie that doesn't resort to gratuitous shock tactics in order to get its point across. Most of the more sordid details are revealed subtly without banging the audience over the head with a sledgehammer. "The devil is in the details," Connor remarks at one point and he uses the tooth fairy as an analogy of how figures in authority deceive the public while appearing benevolent. He offers much counsel on how to work the system to your own advantage. "Think of what I said," he adds, "as the fine print in a pharmaceutical commercial."
Choose Connor boasts a sharp script, and superb direction and the audience will relish the trip into the underbelly of politics. Director Eberl has a nice eye for the ironic image - consider a shot of Owen looking at his own face on an election poster that urges the public to vote for the very bill that he, himself, now harbors doubts. Unlike the amateur cinematography prevalent in so many queer independent releases, this one is professionally shot and boasts an effective use of long takes and moving cameras. It is crisply edited and never boring.
The cast is excellent. Steven Weber (Wings, Jeffrey, Common Ground) was a perfect choice as Lawrence Connor. Aside from his acting talent, Weber has one of those attractive faces with a perpetual smirk that could also be a mask to hide something sinister beneath the surface. As Connor, he is creepily charismatic; the consummate corrupt politician. Alex Linz strikes the right note of innocence as Owen, and Escher Holloway's Caleb adds a bohemian breath of fresh air to contrast the structured and two-faced world of politics that dominates the rest of the film.

At one point, Connor will make a speech in which he mocks dissent and invokes God to help "unify" this country. This oration, accompanied by thunderous cheers, is scarier than any horror film. Don't look for a James Bond-style conclusion but you will see a young man's faith in the system get totally shattered. Choose Connor is a very compelling film and it comes highly recommended. Not a bad film to wind up being my first review in 2009.


Steven Weber also appears in:
Common Ground

Richard Riehle also appears in:
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life Of Ethan Green
Mysterious Skin
The Fluffer

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