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A LONG LONG Christmas Eve in the life of a Male Prostitute
wc1n3xx12 November 2001
It's Christmas Eve and Arquette a Male Prostitute has a plan in mind for Christmas day; his plan involves luxury and fantasy. This means he has to catch a few extra punters and be a little more daring than usual to achieve his goal - which is quite simple - unless you have the life of Arquette.

Most of the film is set on one boulevard befamed for 'pick ups'. It may help a little if you are gay or know of the gay culture. But having said that whatever your persuasion you can't help but like Arquette as he trys to get enough dollars together for his plan.

Throughout the film we meet his clients, his friends, his enemies, and we are a voyeur to the problems he faces in his line of work. He's a likeable chap, and as someone has already mentioned it's almost played out as a Shakespearian Tragedy - especially as we frequently return to the 'set' and more or less get to know our way around.

At one point he gets it together, but tragedy strikes, in a weird kind of way, at some points of the film you really feel like sending him the extra dollars he needs, as his dream is so innocent and quite pure.

In parts, the film is quite deep as it explores a couple of the characters he interacts with, and although he's naturally streetwise, there's a vulnerablility that keeps you on his side, and you really do feel like fighting for him, but the character John (Arquette)is strangely proud, and his pride is built from street level up, with a coating of fantasy and imagination.

There's also a guy looking for him to settle a debt, which turns a bit sour - with the help of a well-meaning friend.

The day is sooooo long in the film, yet John's shortage of the stuff keeps up the tension and sympathy, especially as he allows himself to take bigger risks, and the viewer knows it, as the camera indicates visual clues as to his possible next chapter in the day.

Although fairly old (in terms of rent boy/prostitute, he carries it off very well, as he goes through the usual motions of the belly rub and boyish stance.

There's lots of comedy in the film, but you don't really want to add to his troubles, making the direction manipulative and 'classic' in terms of human tragedy.

Meet John and his friends and foes alike, and you'll find that empathy is drawn from you as you watch this unique, almost surreal film unfold.

If you find yourself alone over Christmas, it may be worth a look at somebody who's got it a bit worse than you, with just a few more complications.
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worth a rental
Barton-1325 November 1999
Chances are if you're reading this,that you've seen the film.Therefore you will know that it is not a movie about toilets.It's not a film that you stumble across,its one that gets recommended to you by a mate. Obviously a mate with good taste.It has a number of things to recommend it,including an early performance from Arquette,which is very good,a directorial debut from the soon-to-be-massive Silver,and Elliot Gould being gay.If you like that kind of thing.Johns is not a pleasant film,it does not re-affirm your faith,but then why should a film about homeless L.A male prostitutes be life affirming ? At times it shocks(Arquette with a condom round his mouth,ready to earn his breakfast)and is commonly unpleasant,but it still finds room for a sensitive humour,particuarly the deranged ramblings of fellow hooker Eli.John has a dream,to spend the first night of his 21st life in a local hotel,and while this dream may seem within easy grasp for the rest of us,for a homeless gigolo,it means putting himself through potentially dangerous situations with his clientele. Watch Johns if you can find a copy,its the one that got away.
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Sad and powerful
mermatt25 August 1999
This is a metaphorical story about people's dreams as they

search for themselves and some meaning to life. There are

interesting symbols throughout the movie: Camelot as a

mythical, far-away perfect place; Christmas as a time of

birth and rebirth; the painted mural of the 10 Commandments as the "writing on the wall"; looking for a

room at the inn (the hotel); the wounds and the tattoos of

a tear and a heart; and the gaining and loss of time (watches).

The performances are convincing and powerful. The theme

seems to be in the song that Homeless John sings towards

the end about how the "world treats you mean" but there is

hope in rebirth. The movie is an odd use of all the symbolism to give a sad picture of street hustlers who,

like all people, seem lonely and in search of something

more meaningful in life.
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very intense!
pooh-19 November 1998
I just saw the movie as part of a gay and lesbian film festival and I found it extremely intense, very authentic and genuine. There is great cinematography, great acting and a story that lets you see just how hard hustling in Los Angeles is. You get a chance to empathize with the main characters and see things from their point of view. It's not a funny movie (although it has funny moments) but rather one to watch and reflect about. David Arquette and Lukas Haas deserve great praise for doing this movie, as does the director. It's not a feel-good movie, but it's definitely worth seeing.
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Johns: Very realistic in its portrayal of the hardships of street life.
Grand9 December 1998
Johns quite accurately portrays the nightmarish life of "kids" on the streets of Hollywood. There are indeed bright spots in life for these social outcasts, rare people like the angelic "Homeless John" or Richard Kind's "Paul," the gentlemanly concierge, but the recurring theme of mistrust is "on the money," as we say.

Having lived and/or worked in the Hollywood area for decades, everyone here can also solemnly assure people who do not live in Southern California, that, yes, it CAN be blindingly bright, hot and sunny in December in Hollywood, and yes, that bright glare off of the white stucco walls REALLY occurs, and yes, it IS depressing! Our reviewer has compared the Los Angeles of johns to Oran in The Plague by Camus; visually, the comparison is apt. Morally and spiritually it is perhaps even more apt.
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Arquette is brilliant
monsterflick5 September 2003
The film is rough and gritty, yes, but also a little corny and cliched. The best reason to see it is for the acting. Lukas Haas is great, as usual. But David Arquette is downright brilliant. When I first saw this film, I felt like I was watching a young Marlon Brando. I was convinced Arquette was going to be the Next Big Thing in Hollywood. Then he yucked it up in the wonderful "Scream" films, making a bigger splash as a comic charicature. And then came his 1-800 AT&T commercials, and all his talk show appearances in oversized zoot suits, and his marriage to Courtney "Friends" Cox. The poor guy may be Hollywood's biggest untapped talent! Check out "Johns" if you want to see a side of David Arquette you've never seen. (I just hope his performance isn't ruined by your memories of those phone commercials.)
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sobering portrait of the male flesh trade
thomandybish17 July 2001
JOHNS offers little in the way of comfort for the viewer. Unlike other films that skirt around the subject of child and male prostitution(WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU)or couch the subject in arty symbolism and metaphor(MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO)JOHNS gives an unflinching portrait of these boys and the clients who exploit them. David Arquette is John, a seasoned street hustler who reluctantly takes under his wing Donner(Lukas Haas)a runaway and novice prostitute. Despite his flaky demeanor, Arquette turns in a studied performance, and Haas does what he seems to do best, stand around looking sad and introspective. It's a world where violence can and does erupt at any moment and the hustlers count a successful day as one in which they've managed to live through. Moving without any sentimentality. Try it.
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Home, Street Home ...
Merwyn Grote4 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I like to think of it as "the Goofy effect." It is when all the characters in a movie seem to talk and sound and act alike, like in the old Disney cartoons where Goofy played every single character. Even when it is done well, like in a Robert Altman movie where everyone usually natters in a similar semi-low voiced chatter about trivial things or in a Woody Allen movie where everyone tends to expound with the sophisticated cynical wit of a "New Yorker" arts review, it can get to be just a little bit annoying. It's not so bad in those films, because it usually underscores the comic intent of the dialogue. However, too often it is used to reinforce a cultural stereotype (southern bigots, poor blacks, middle-class Jews, etc.) even when such a stereotype isn't necessarily real.

In JOHNS, a film about street level male prostitutes, everyone speaks with a "Hey man, how's it hangin', man? What the f---'s happen, you m.....f....., man?" And so on. Well, some of them add a little bit of swishy oh-so homosexual lisp to the pronunciation, but basically it is as though all the hustlers took the same Berlitz course on how to sound like you are savvy to the sounds of the lean streets of Los Angeles. It would seem to me that the story would be better told by stressing just how different these guys are. Instead, the point of the film seems to be that they are awfully alike. Even the man character played by David Arquette is named John and he keeps running into other characters named John, some of whom are his johns.

Other than to deny the characters any sort of complexity, it is difficult to see just what the point of JOHNS is. I can't say the film has any great sympathy for the characters, even as it rather smugly traps them all in an atmosphere of impending doom. Resolutely downbeat, JOHNS not-so-subtly makes it clear that someone is going to die by the end of the film and the only suspense springs from trying to guess who. Is it Arquette as the optimistically foolish John or Lukas Haas as his foolishly optimistic friend, Donner? Let's just say that as soon as one of the characters starts talking about scoring one last john before he retires from prostitution forever, he might as well just crawl into a body bag because his fate is sealed.

Arquette's John spends Christmas Eve trying to hustle up or steal enough money to pay back $300 he has stolen from a drug dealer and to get quite a bit more so that he can spend Christmas Day, his birthday, in a luxury hotel. The Christmas angle and the suggestion that John is some sort of a Jesus figure hangs uneasily over the story like the pretentious subtext of a bad play. Indeed, the film's theatrical nature never quite jibes with its desire to seem street wise, leaving it all seemingly artificial and empty. And despite the milieu, the film isn't explicit on any level, having no nudity, only implied sex and even the violence is off screen. It is a remarkably timid film about a remarkably lurid subject.

As dull wittedly predictable as the film is, it is worth seeing just for the actors. Elliott Gould, John C. McGinley and Arliss Howard have their moments as various customers who pass through, and Haas' geeky charm serves him well as a teen whose been kicked out by his father for announcing that he is gay. But it is Arquette's film and, though he gives a very good performance, he isn't helped much by a shallow script by writer/director Scott Silver. Though he is the central character, we learn very little about John, other than that he is homeless, he identifies himself as being straight, he's not too bright and, well, that's about it. John is less a reality than a generic example. It says something when a filmmaker resorts to generic labels to identify his film and his characters. This John doesn't get a lot of respect, least of all from the film itself.
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A sad, sometimes funny, often sobering and underrated sleeper
Woodyanders22 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I'm actually a big fan of this movie and consider it to be quite underrated. By now anyone who bothers to read these reviews knows the plot, so I won't waste your time with yet another synopsis. Instead, I'll just explain certain aspects of this film which make it in my book a genuinely solid and touching picture.

First off, the emotional rapport between David Arquette and Lukas Haas is just lovely: loose, natural and totally unaffected, the chemistry between these two is very credible and engaging. Moreover, the supporting cast all turn in bang-up performances. Elliott Gould was extraordinary in his brief, yet startling appearance as an in-the-closet married gay man with a wife and kids. You don't know whether to laugh or cry at the sight of this pathetic guy; it's this peculiar complexity Gould projects which makes his cameo so striking and unforgettable. Richard Kind as a compassionate hotel clerk brings a truly sweet and appealing warmth to his part. But the real revelation here is Keith David as a kindly and protective "angelic" homeless man. Usually cast in intimidating tough guy parts, David gets a rare chance to show a more soft and sensitive side that I especially enjoyed seeing. And to hear David sing a forlorn gospel song in that magnificent liquid bass during the ending credits constitutes as a substantial extra treat! Arliss Howard turns in a thoroughly creepy and compelling characterization as a man whose severely repressed homosexuality manifests itself as pure psychotic rage.

The other thing in the movie that warrants additional kudos is the stupendous blues score by noted blues musician Charles Brown; it perfectly captures the downbeat tone of film and exudes a sense of bleakness and despair that's in itself very powerful. The gritty, no-frills, washed-out cinematography likewise accurately pegs a deep-seated feeling of grungy sordidness and hopelessness as well, although those constant fades to black struck me as a rather annoying stylistic flourish that's jarringly at odds with the basic gritty realism. The somewhat telegraphed ending may be predictable, but it's still very devastating. Furthermore, I give the film bonus points for having the strength of its own bitter convictions; there's no fake "everything works out" Hollywood happy ending. And the occasional moments of darkly funny humor are neatly incorporated into the overall film; they add some much-needed levity and stop the movie from becoming too unbearably depressing. All in all, "Johns" sizes up as a sound indie picture that warrants a second look and reappraisal.
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Well-intentioned but very unsatisfying.
xavrush891 June 2004
The good acting by David Arquette surprised me, I'll admit. Too bad he and Lukas Haas' efforts in this film go unrewarded by a meandering script and barely developed secondary characters. The portrayal of life on the street was intriguing, but the turns of events didn't go anywhere, yet at the same same time the film's conclusion is inevitable. It's as if the director had Point A and Point B and called in some favors to get some name actors to improv scenes. It's sad that even in a modestly budgeted independent film like this, they filled the bill with heterosexual actors who got to be gay as a dramatic exercise, then went back to their heterosexual lives, while we can still count on one hand the number of openly gay actors working in movies and TV combined. You'd think a small film like this might have been an opportunity a gay actor or two. But noooooo, we already have our quota of openly gay actors on the lower rungs of the Hollywood ladder.

But even not taking that into account, the film is just okay at best. Not enough of a story, and even barring that, the dialogue in unmemorable. The only reason to watch is to see David Arquette in a new light, otherwise skip it.
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Johns is a dog
esh046764 March 2005
I suffered through this film, and I have read a lot of the comments by other viewers at this site--and I strongly second all the negative things anyone has said. In the first place, Arquette and Haas, the two lead actors, both look so scruffy and "unbuff" it is hard to believe that they would expect to sell themselves to any prospective customers. But maybe that is what the customers want! The film has a worn-out dirty look, the camera work is unimaginative, the direction--what am I saying?--there appears not to be any direction at all. Something in the way of good social commentary combined with a story that grabs the viewer might be done with this subject matter. After all, there have been some good movies about female prostitutes. So give the guys a chance! How about a remake of the old chestnut, Sadie Thompson, done once as Rain with Joan Crawford and later as Miss Sadie Thompson with Rita Hayworth? A good vehicle for such young actors as Gael Garcia Bernal!
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If Gus Van Sant & Larry Clark had a love-child, this film would be it!
shadowsonthewalls3 April 2008
Like some other people posting here, I caught "johns" randomly on cable one night. The great acting and storyline totally captured me within 2 minutes, and I could not take my eyes off of the television. I also have to admit how surprised I was of David Arquette's ability to take on a more serious role --I'll be honest, at first I was skeptical, but as I became sucked into this film, I actually grew to respect David Arquette as an actor, if only for his role in this title.

This is not a trashy sex film; it's great for lover's of the indie craft and resembles, in my opinion, a mixture of Gus Van Sant and Larry Clark, with a dash of Greg Araki's Mysterious Skin.

A great film, full of heart and sentiment without leaving behind a nasty taste in your mouth.
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An Enjoyable Yarn
Ben-16224 November 1999
For a film with such a controversial subject, Silver handles it with supreme maturity. Although twinges of sentimentality do exist (the brilliantly played 'angel') this adds to, rather than subtracts from, the powerful nature of the drama. And it is powerful. The characters, although some only ever reach the cardboard, two dimensional stage, are enjoyably refreshing - both Arquette and Haas give very good performances. My only real criticsm is the tension of the pick ups is overplayed - too many are either dangerous or violent (although I am unable to comment on the normal state of people in pick-up districts) and as such, by the end of the film a feeling of over tension seems to have been reached.

Apart from this, a well rounded and genuinely enjoyable film. Recommended.
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Not the johns that I imaged.
Hunky Stud6 April 2001
So we know that this is a movie about male prostitution. There could be so many ups and downs in their lives. This movie only showed one day's life of two male prostitutes. Is it really that easy just to pick out customers for those two johns? They don't even have to talk to those people, as soon as someone stopped his car right next to them, they just know that they have customers.

Also most male prostitutes work at night, and sleep at day. So does this movie really reflect the actual life of a male prostitute? I don't know if the director, writer, screenwriter actually consulate with any real male prostitutes.

In order to make the movie more dramatic; one of the characters was beaten to death by his customer. However, the customer appears to be weaker than the prostitute is. That was clearly a bad cast by the casting director. Of course, every movie has to have an end, but by making the character dead, that doesn't really appear to be real.

To me, this movie is below average, because it failed to show the real life of any male prostitute.
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Grim, dreary, depressing, confusing and dull
preppy-316 August 2004
The life of a male prostitute (David Arquette) on Christmas Eve--one day before his birthday. His best friend and lover (I think--played by Lukas Haas) wants him to leave the town with him--but he owes a psycho named Jimmy $3,000 and Jimmy intends to collect...

The movie looks dirty (as it should) and with the sole exceptions of Haas and Elliott Gould it's VERY well-acted (especially by Arquette who's just incredible) but the story is vague, the dialogue is awkward and I gradually got very bored by it. The constant depressing tone does wear you down and the ending was (to me) telegraphed. Almost worth seeing for the acting....ALMOST.

I'm sure there's a good movie to be made about male prostitution but this isn't it. A huge bomb on its release in 1996. It bombed so badly in California and New York that the distributor pulled it from release completely! It was scheduled to play in Cambridge MA but never made it! A definite must-miss but, because of the acting, I give this a 4.
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My Own Private Missouri
wes-connors18 August 2008
David Arquette (as John) is an aspiring actor. Lukas Haas (as Donner) is a gay youth tossed out of his home, by an intolerant father. Both wind up hustling, on Santa Monica Boulevard. Since Mr. Arquette arrived first, he has taught Mr. Haas the tricks of the trade, beginning with the most important dating question: "Are you a cop?" This is a shorter version than the one posed by Arquette; but, it's quick, effective, and easier for the trick to understand. Hass falls in love with Arquette, and wants to take him to "Camelot", where the two would be lifeguards. But, Arquette is reluctant to go; he wants to spend his Birthday in an expensive hotel room.

Scott Silver's "Johns" has a very realistic set-up; the unrequited love between the two young men, and their reasons for being where they are, certainly ring true. But, the film's premise becomes a tired, unrealistic cliché. If tricks were as bad as they are herein, the Boulevard would be deserted. The actors play their parts well; they, and Mr. Silver, make you care about them as individuals, and wish for a happy culmination. The conclusion offered by Silver is as predictable as the sunset; however, it is infinitely less satisfying (and leaves a bad taste in your mouth).

On the other hand, Silver has some good moves, and is able to assemble quite a good cast and crew, for a first directorial effort. Among the supporting players, Richard Kind's beautiful portrayal of an understanding hotel clerk is most outstanding. Even the other hotel customers seemed enchanted.

There is a lot of Christian religiosity… this is, arguably, a re-telling of the so-called "greatest story ever told". Don't miss that Christ-like, barefoot Arquette's "John" is given a "crown of thorns". And, also note that Haas' deerly named "Donner" has a Judas-like moment. And, remember, Haas told Arquette he doesn't celebrate Christmas because, "I'm Jewish."

Great, Scott. What's the message?

***** Johns (1996) Scott Silver ~ David Arquette, Lukas Haas, Richard Kind
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A prostitute born on Christmas Day
somehope19 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
For many, David Arquette is just a smart guy acting stupid in films like the "Scream" trilogy or the AT & T TV spots. In this film, he proves he has humor with acting chomps.

His character, Donner, is a male prostitute, but there is very little sex involved in the film, and perhaps only one person does care about him -- even though he can't let people into his emotions. The film is centered on Christmas Eve, his birthday, a day where he hopes to spend entirely in a fancy hotel just to relax, and not work on the streets to barely eat.

It doesn't matter if he is straight or gay: he is both and he is neither. He survives by "entertaining". He has a young apprentice out on the Hollywood streets and mentors him in street life, a life he really can't stand, and a life that he is afraid of leaving even at the last second.

Supported by Terrence Howard as a pimp; Richard Kind as hotel clerk who sees through Donner's lies but wants him to have the room because he sees Donner as a good person; Keith David as an angelic homeless "john"; and Lukkas Haas ("Witness") as an openly gay teen who loves the man who cannot love himself, this film works because of what is said and what we miss for those people the world forgot outside Hollywood.
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A Night Of Ease And Comfort
bkoganbing31 January 2009
Johns is a bargain basement version of Gus Van Sant's classic My Own Private Idaho, a story about two gay prostitutes trying to get enough money so that one can fulfill his fantasy of a night stay at a five star hotel with all the fringe benefits of room service. By the way that particular plot device dates all the way back to Paramount's If I Had A Million where Wynne Gibson gets that million dollar check and the first thing she does is register in a swank hotel where she served as a fringe benefit just for a night's sleep alone.

Johns even begins the way My Own Private Idaho ends where some people stole the shoes off of a sleeping narcoleptic River Phoenix. In this case David Arquette is sleeping in a park and someone robs his lucky Puma sneakers off his feet. They're more than good luck to him, he keeps his money there.

The footwear get replaced, from his next client Arquette steals a pair of golf shoes that the client had in the back of his car. Making that money back won't be so easy as Arquette owed a drug dealer as well.

David Arquette is the veteran street kid and new to the scene is Lukas Haas who as too many are in real life, kicked out of his house because he came out as gay. Lukas is kind of crushing out on David. Arquette likes him well enough, but like Keanu Reaves vis a vis River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho, he's a hard case who can't let anything that will soften him insofar as dealing with the mean streets and those who walk them.

Johns is a decent enough film, that rises and succeeds on the performances of leads Arquette and Haas. The two are appealing on many different levels.

This is not a feel good movie, but a rather stern look at an underside of gay life that we don't want to acknowledge. But if someone sees it who is prevented from disowning his child because of his or her sexual orientation, the film will have been worth being made.
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Very good movie:
Rick-1351 January 1999
A sweet and realistic picture with a very sad and tragic ending. I have always liked David Arquette and I think he's a very good actor but he does make a lot of mistakes in choosing some very bad roles in awful films (he deserves better then the kind of work he's been getting offered) but in the case of this movie,he made a very good decision and proved to me that he is the best actor of the Arquette family. The man has talent.
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Midday Cowboy
PaulLondon18 May 2001
So, unfortunately, this film does draw comparisons to both "Midnight Cowboy" and "My Own private Idaho" because of the subject matter, male prostitution.

The main problem with these comparisons though is that it shows up what an average film "Johns" is. Not as flashily entertaining or as funny as "Midnight Cowboy" or as bleakly beautiful as "Idaho" it probably is a victim of its own lack of ambition. If you want a more cutting film about hustlers look to some of Paul Morrissey's far more "out-there" Warhol films (try "Trash") "Johns" isn't a bad film-though Arquette just doesn't convince and some of the writing seems painfully contrived. Indeed there are more comparisons with Idaho; Arquette is as weak as Keanu Reeves is in the latter and the scripts of both have contrivances which simply don't work. But, Idaho is a strangely dreamy film that frequently soars off into moments of aching beauty whilst "Johns" trots arounds the streets of LA without offering much insight or interest in these young mens lives. Its an OK film and one which may make a few people think about society's hypocrisies but it doesn't really cut it as a great film
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Lukas Haas was outstanding in his performance!
jbs300m3 April 2001
Lukas Haas performance was outstanding and very believable.

When he was cast off by his buddy John you could not help but feel his pain as well as at the movies tragic ending. The performances were all very human and portrayed the lifestyle in a "for real " manner. Really enjoyed the movie.
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A modern day tragedy with bite **spoiler**
twistofreality27 December 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Some might find this film distasteful; in truth, it's realistic. It has a hint of Shakespearean tragedy in the death of the protagonist, John (David Arquette). Although its frank depictions of homosexuality, prostitution, and life on the streets are not for the timid, this movie should not be written off as merely trying to push the limits of cinematic expression. The cinematography is almost documentary-like, adding to its realism and tragic theme. This movie is not meant to be perverse, rebellious, or even remotely sexual. It is merely meant to be a proper depiction of the everyday sadness to which real life subjects its less fortunate inhabitants.
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It's really about friendship
moggy-418 June 2000
Luckily, I came upon this on tv and started watching it before I knew the title. If I had seen the title, I would have dismissed it as another dreary sex film and that it is not.

It's very watchable, the characters sympathetic, including small parts- the man, John, who gives one of them a sandwich, and especially Paul, the reservations clerk at the hotel. Since most viewers are young, esp. for films like this, for the record, my kids are older than the lead characters, and I enjoyed this moving film.
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