Guest House Films,

Rob Williams

Steve Callahan,
Matthew Montgomery,
David Pevsner
Jim J. Bullock
Brian Nolan,
Matthew Stephen Herrick

Unrated, 85 minutes

by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online January, 2011

Rob Williams (3 Day Weekend, Make The Yuletide Gay) is one of the most prolific gay filmmakers working today and his films get better with each successive title. His latest, 2010's Role/Play, is a love story between two gay men on opposite sides of the ideological fence. Steve Callahan (East Side Story) stars as Graham Windsor, a closeted soap opera star who has just been outed in the worst possible way - a leaked sex tape, Fired from his longtime television gig, and hounded by the press for a statement, Graham hides out at a private Palm Springs resort to lay low as he assesses his options. While lounging at the pool, his desire for anonymity quickly goes out the window when he is recognized by an arriving guest.

Queer indie favorite Matthew Montgomery (Long Term Relationship, Socket) co-stars as Trey Reed, a gay marriage activist. His passion for the cause is admirable (Graham will call him a "professional gay") but he's also a little full of himself. A firm believer in outing, Trey berates the actor for hiding in the closet and gloats over his misery. But - touche' - he gets a taste of his own medicine when Graham recognizes him. Trey is also weathering his own scandal. Trey, the poster child for gay marriage, is in the middle of an ugly divorce. Not only that, he had an affair! Conservative pundits are having a field day with this and the gay press isn't being very kind either. Graham calls Trey a hypocrite, Trey flips Graham the bird, and the bell rings round one.

The audience's first glimpse of Trey is not a pretty picture when, after he hangs up on his ex, he takes off his wedding ring and angrily tosses it on the floor of his car. He can be a bit on the sanctimonious side and Alex (David Pevsner), the resort's owner, tells the activist to cut Graham some slack. When Trey snidely asks if the disgraced soap actor has enough "closet space" in his room, Alex insists that Graham is a nice guy, all he wants to do is work. Trey feels bad and apologizes to Graham but within minutes they are sniping at each other again, and the bell rings round two.

Trey is channeling Larry Kramer (even his underwear has the words "Legalize Gay" emblazoned on the crotch) and Graham represents everything that Trey hates. But opposites attract as they say. Both of these men are hot and it's only a matter of time before, at the very least, they are jumping each other's bones. Slowly the two warm up to each other. Trey begins to lighten up when Graham tells him that he respects the work that he has done for the gay community. As they vent about their respective scandals, they find that they have more in common than they first thought.

Most people, when they hear the words role and play, think of S&M sex games but, in this case, it's about the difference between public and private personas. Both men are pretending to be something they are not - Trey played the marriage activist while his own union was falling apart, and Graham tried to maintain a relationship while playing the network publicity game that painted him as a red blooded heterosexual male. Some people act one way at the office, Graham rationalizes, and another way at home and that's the way we survive. Wouldn't it be nice, Trey asks, if these public and private lives could be combined?

Perhaps it's only rebound sex, but our lads overcome their initial animosity and become quite enamored with each other. There must, however, be third act drama and it erupts with the discovery that there is more to both men's stories than we were first led to believe. These revelations deepen the characters and I will leave the rest for the reader to discover on his own.

Outing has always been a contentious debate in the gay community. One side holds that it is every gay person's responsibility to exit the closet and be counted, the other insists that coming out is a personal matter unique to each individual. Others, like Graham, feel that outing is only acceptable in certain cases. He concedes that the public needs to know about closet-case politicians who vote against gay rights, but he feels that his sex life is none of anyone's business.

Director Williams' sharp script is an indictment of the fickle way queer media covers celebrities. Trey expected the backlash from Fox News but is surprised at how viciously the gay press turned on him. A hero one minute and a pariah the next. Graham points out how young gay actors are fawned over but older established ones are ignored unless there is a salacious scandal. Dreading how he will be smeared by some bitchy columnist, Trey offers Graham this alternative: "You can become a professional gay. Unfairly outed by the homophobic press, you serve as the Grand Marshall in Pride parades all over the country, you speak out against double standards in the industry, and then you go on a reality TV show, have someone ghostwrite your memoirs, and do local theatre productions of Bent." Trey's cynicism is understandable. It is his opinion that queer media is dying because it turned its back on its own community, ignoring gay artists while spotlighting cool straight people on the covers. "Every other niche market supports its own," he rightly points out, "Ours doesn't."

There's some heavy political stuff in the movie but it also doesn't forget to be funny. Graham informs Trey that he was offered the starring role in a movie - a porn film called The Hung And The Restless. (Trey asks which one he would play.) There's a running gag with Alex constantly barking at Graham, every time that he goes swimming, that this is not a clothing optional resort. Williams mines a lot of humor from the age gap between the two lovers. Graham is 40 and Trey, who is in his 20s, doesn't get any of Graham's cultural references to Dallas and Dynasty. When Graham asks Trey if he's ever seen Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Trey thinks it's a TV movie about "that girl who fell down the well."

Role/Play looks great. The sun-drenched resort is picturesque and the pool scenes are breathtaking. The film moves at a good pace and the music is mostly unobtrusive. The artfully framed interior photography compliments the long dialogue scenes. The cast was well chosen. Pevsner plays a nice supporting role as Alex, and Jim J. Bullock has a blast chewing the scenery as Graham's flamboyant agent. Callahan and Montgomery are partners in real life and their ease together is apparent. Not to mention the chemistry. Their scenes together occupy most of the film and they bring their characters to life. Role/Play isn't a very explicit film but the sensual sex is still very hot. While there isn't any frontal nudity, the camera is in love with both of their bare backsides. A flashback to the filming of the sex tape is idyllic.

Thus far, Williams' film output has been impressive. Long Term Relationship (2006) was a charmer about two men who are perfect for each other in every way except that the sex sucks. Back Soon (2007) featured two straight men whose sudden attraction has roots in the supernatural. (Both starred Montgomery.) A cabin full of vacationing gay friends populated 3 Day Weekend (2008), and a young man was forced to to come out to his family on Christmas when his boyfriend showed up on the doorstep in Make The Yuletide Gay (2009). Each featured attractive and talented casts, interesting scripts and good production values. This is his best film yet. I look forward to the next.


More on Rob Williams;
Long Term Relationship
Back Soon
3 Day Weekend
Make The Yuletide Gay
The Men Next Door
Out To Kill

Matthew Montgomery also appears in
Long Term Relationship
Back Soon
Pornography: A Thriller

Flight Of The Cardinal

Steve Callahan also appears in
East Side Story
Make The Yuletide Gay
Pornography: A Thriller
Abrupt Decision

David Pevsner also appears in:
Pornography: A Thriller
Adam & Steve
The Fluffer

A Portrait of James Dean: Joshua Tree, 1951
Old Dogs & New Tricks

Jim J. Bullock also appears in