GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
Hit and Runway
Lot 47 Films,
Starring: Michael Parducci, Peter Jacobson, Judy Prescott, Kerr Smith, J.K. Simmons
Rated R, 101 minutes.
Odd Couple Redux
Hit and Runway is a charming little film that employs the time honored comic tradition of throwing two opposites together. In this case the dynamics are gay vs. straight, Jewish vs. Catholic, dork vs. jock.
Michael Parducci plays Alex, a young man who works in his family's Italian restaurant while dreaming of being a Hollywood screenwriter. Though brimming with confidence, he is a complete dimwit who can't write. (Think Christopher on The Sopranos, only worse.) He comes off as a buffoon in his writing class, but he has an ace up his sleeve. A distant cousin who works in Tinseltown has told him that a big action star is interested in one of his ideas - a testosterone-fueled caper involving an undercover cop at a fashion show called Hit and Runway. The trouble is, Alex has barely written a word and needs a script in two weeks.
Enter Elliot, (Peter Jacobson), a nerdy Jewish man who could be a young Woody Allen clone. Elliot has a crush on Joey, (Dawson's Creek's Kerr Smith), the twinky actor/waiter who works in Alex's family's restaurant. When Alex accidentally finds the script that Elliot left for Joey (with his phone number written on the top corner of every page), he calls Elliot to ask if they can collaborate on his screenplay. Elliot of course has no interest in such a vapid idea for a script, and insists that a script collaboration is "like a marriage except you have to talk to each other." He reluctantly gives in when Alex, desperate, offers to get him a date with Joey.
What ensues is a classic Odd Couple story loaded with comic potential. For the most part, Hit and Runway delivers on its promise. Elliot is intellectual while Alex has yet to learn to walk erect, but, as they work together, they learn valuable life lessons from each other in the most unlikely of ways.
Much of the film is hilarious, especially when it attacks Hollywood mentalities and cliches. For example, Alex is told that Hit and Runway is the best idea for a comedy since Kindergarten Cop. The movie that Alex dreams about in an opening scene is so terrible that a Jean Claude Van Damme flick seems Shakespearean in comparison. (The hero, obviously modeled on Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, aims his gun across a fashion runway and growls "Freeze, you scuzzbucket piece of Euro-trash!") Elliot is aghast at Alex's script ideas, which include models smuggling cocaine in their breast implants. "Short of a complete frontal lobotomy," he tells Alex, "I don't see how my thinking could ever coincide with yours."
Elliot's attempts to bring some depth to the script are, of course, met with resistance. Alex wants the female lead to be "stacked" while Elliot wants her to be a plain and mousy woman who "reveals her inner beauty" when the studly hero takes off her glasses. In a truly comic moment, Alex comes around to Elliot's way of thinking when the plain, bespectacled woman in his writing class is suddenly beautiful after she removes her glasses and they kiss as if it were a romantic movie from the 1940s.
Hit and Runway indulges itself at times with humor that borders on the stereotypical but it manages, for the most part, to refrain from becoming totally offensive. Alex is a dumb Kiss Me Guido type of guy, and Elliot is Woody Allen reincarnate but the screenwriters fleshed out the characters so that they aren't two dimensional cyphers. And some of the jokes are just off-the-wall. When's the last time you saw a young twink confess that he's turned on by Jewish men speaking Yiddish? In a scene worthy of Gomez Addams kissing Morticia's arm when she speaks French, Joey throws himself at Elliot when he starts singing "If I Was A Rich Man."
The ending is a tad far-fetched, but I give the filmmakers credit for shattering audience expectations with a totally unforeseen and farcical plot twist. Just before the climax, J.K. Simmons (Schillinger, the Aryan Brotherhood's leader on HBO's Oz) [reviewer's note, 2007: he was also perfectly cast as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spiderman movies.] provides one of the film's highlights in a terrific cameo as an obnoxious Hollywood mogul. The ending could never happen but you'll love it anyway.
Hit and Runway is hardly a great film but it is an enjoyable one. Just when you think that things are getting a bit sitcom-ish, the filmmakers throw in a little touch that is so real that you forgive the movie's occasional shortcomings. It is nicely acted by all, and none of the performances look forced. The cinematography is polished, with a lot of fluid camera movement, and doesn't look as low budget as many other indie productions do. If you're tired, like me, of coming out films, Hit and Runway is a good change of pace.