GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
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Place Or Mine?
The late 1990s, to this reviewer at least, was a transitional time for queer films. The movies were becoming far more mainstream and it seemed as if the activists, whose works had dominated the early half of the decade, had gone into hibernation.
|One of the most popular titles from that period was Trick (1999). I'm going to be honest; I did not love this film on its first release. I thought it was cute but forgettable. Rightly or wrongly, I was still stuck in my generation's mindset that all queer films needed to be political - as if the sheer act of making a gay film wasn't a political act in itself. On the other hand, younger gay filmgoers who didn't live through the police harassment of previous decades, or the beginning of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, wanted to see films that were fun. If the multiplexes could be dominated by straight romantic comedies, why couldn't queer screens reflect this as well?|
I must be mellowing in my old age. Or maybe I'm just lightening up and not expecting every film I watch to be Citizen Kane. And so I've been revisiting a few films that I didn't write about the first time around when my space was limited to my monthly video column in Outcome. Last night I watched director Jim Fall's Trick again and found myself utterly charmed by the central story of these two guys who hook up but have no place to go. I was so charmed that I was willing to overlook the fact that Tori Spelling still annoyed me as much as she did the first time I saw the movie.
|Christian Campbell stars as Gabriel, an adorable milquetoast who dreams of writing Broadway musicals. His best friend/fag hag, Katherine (Tori Spelling), clings to him like a barnacle and whenever they are together it's all about her. Gabriel is also treated like a doormat by his straight roommate, Rich (Brad Beyer), and the film opens with Gabriel sleeping on the floor outside of his apartment door because Rich has overnight company.|
|Gabriel hits the clubs to forget his troubles. Riding home on the subway, he is surprised when the muscular young dancer (John Paul Pitoc) whom he had ogled back at the bar gets on the train too and slumps down on the bench across from him. Gabriel is unable to stop gazing at the sleeping hunk. As luck would have it, his eyes open and meets Gabriel's. When Gabriel gets off at his stop, and looks back, the dancer follows him. His name is Mark and he wants to hook up. This is perhaps the sexiest cruising scene ever filmed; it's all in the eyes and these guys want each other. Gabriel is nervous and unable to believe his luck, but there's a problem. His roommate has already told him that he needs the apartment tonight to entertain another girl friend. They aren't expected to be there for a couple of hours and, as Mark says, "There's a lot we can do in two hours."|
|And so the two horny young men go back to Gabriel's flat - and find Katherine there. She is using his computer to print 150 resumes and refuses to take the hint and leave. When Gabriel finally manages to push her out the door, he turns to see the chiseled dancer pulling his shirt over his head. Gabriel, at first bashful, is soon swooning in the hunk's arms. And then Rich shows up - early - with his girlfriend. They flip a coin for the apartment and Gabriel loses. An attempt to use a friend's apartment also goes awry and a trip to a gay dance club invites catastrophe. Will these two strapping young lads ever get to finally do it?|
|Someone in the movie says that one night stands shouldn't take this long because the two guys might actually get to know each other. During an earlier scene, Gabriel and Katherine audition one of his showtunes. Deflecting criticism from his audience, Gabriel insists that it would be completely unbelievable for two people who have just met to fall in love during a single night. But this is what happens when Gabriel and Mark really start to bond during this comedy of errors and both begin to suspect that there is more going on here besides a simple hook-up. This is most apparent when they help Gabriel's friend (Steve Hayes) make up with his ex even though it means they can no longer use his apartment to make out.|
|This is a sweet film and it's fun to see these two opposites attract and slowly fall believably in love. It would be normal to assume, at first, that Mark is just a dumb hunk who wants to get laid but his character is full of surprises. He shows an interest in Gabriel's songwriting and we discover later that the real reason they couldn't go back to his place was because he lives with his mother. He might dance in a g-string for tips, and his nickname might be beer can, but he wants the same thing that everyone else does and it will tug at your heartstrings when, after they quarrel, he sadly says that he thought they had something else going on tonight beyond just wanting to have sex. You want these guys to get together and I guarantee that you will melt when they kiss good-bye in the morning and Mark writes his phone number on Gabriel's wrist.|
|On the minus side, Katherine's character grates on my nerves. I realize that she is supposed to be annoying but Tori Spelling is so over the top that I just wanted her to vanish from the movie. The same is true for the nasty drag queen who corners Gabriel in a men's room to tell him that Mark is no good. Their scenes stuck out like such sore thumbs on my first viewing that it affected my assessment of the entire film. Then again, I know other guys who thought Katherine and the drag queen were hilarious; to each their own.|
|As for myself, I was really rooting for these two guys, wanted to see them get it on, and felt great when they developed feelings for each other instead. The two actors have genuine chemistry together. The scene where they are alone together at Gabriel's piano, before they are suddenly interrupted by the selfish roommate, sets the screen ablaze. It is both funny and sexy as hell. Both actors are terrific. Christian Campbell, a few years later, played a priest's gay son in the short-lived television series, The Book Of Daniel. Readers might remember this excellent program, about a priest who hangs out with Jesus, and how the network caved in to pressure from the religious right and pulled the plug on the series after only four episodes. Trick's screenwriter, Jason Schafer, contributed several scripts to the Showtme version of Queer As Folk.|
Despite a few flaws, Trick is deeply romantic, it is funny, and it's a great date movie. Trick is also a good example of what the gay community had to put up with from the MPAA film ratings board in the 1990s. This harmless film should be, at most, a PG-13 but instead it is rated R. Danger Will Robinson, two men kissing! Call an ambulence quick, Grandma is hyperventilating!
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