High school senior Ben secretly lusts after bad boy classmate Johnny. After Ben gives Johnny a ride home one night, the boys end up in Johnny's swimming pool and have an encounter that breaks the rules and blows Ben's mind.
After the Kray family meeting at the Waldorf near the film's beginning, Jack Kray emerges onto the street, and into an angry gay rights protest, with dark hair which he doesn't sport in any other scene. It's unexplained, and not a flashback because Anthony climbs onto his car as part of the protest. See more »
Oh well that really sucks, because ya see I just found this great country house with an herb garden and a fish pond that we could move into this weekend. And there's this little Bosnian girl, I... I just got her off of eBay last week and she's desparate for two daddies. So I think we'd make a great family, don't you? I mean do you have a u-haul, 'cause uh... Well, we could rent one.
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The drama POSTER BOY begins with such a solid premise, the screenplay could have practically written itself. Perhaps it would have been better if it had. Though certainly well acted by some of the cast and directed by first-timer Zak Tucker with a degree of skill, the film is bogged down by its script; written by Lecia Rosenthal and Ryan Shiraki, it is laden with preachy platitudes and simple-minded stereotypes. You can sense that the writers weren't satisfied with just hoping to pen a good story, they wanted to make it an "important" film, which is all well and good, unless you sacrifice the drama for the dogma.
Matt Newton plays Henry Kray, the college boy son of Jack Kray, an outspoken conservative senator facing a re-election vote. The son is gay and very much in the closet -- though apparently quite sexually active; while the father is a "family values" candidate with a history of particularly harsh and homophobic stands on various issues. The clueless Jack bullies Henry into being active in his re-election campaign as a way of reaching out to younger voters.
This is a great start; especially if you add in a plot twist wherein Henry unknowingly has a one-night stand with Anthony, a gay rights activist who has a particularly strong dislike for Senator Jack, his politics and his political party. Henry finds himself caught between a father who wishes to exploit his son's youthful and apparently straight-arrow image and a lover who hopes to out him in a cheap attempt at embarrassing the father. This is a nice set up for a potentially complex drama, maybe even an intriguing thriller.
Making an admirable effort to establish an Altmanesque feel to the film, director Tucker finds his attempts at realism at odds with the script that seems contrived and phony as the screenwriters fumble the material in infuriatingly inept ways. For one thing, as played with a perpetual snarl by Michael Lerner, Sen. Jack Kray isn't just a conservative, the story goes out of its way to make sure we know that he is (and by extension, all conservatives are) controlling and hypocritical and poor at parenting to boot. He isn't just a conservative, he is "the Nazi of North Carolina" whose campaign seemingly is financed by the tobacco industry. Gay issues aside, it is not surprising that Henry has great animosity toward his dad. And that is the problem: The film quells part of its strongest source of drama from scene one by obliterating even the slightest suggestion of there being a genuine loving bond between father and son. Indeed, the entire film is told via flashbacks as Henry spills his guts to a reporter in what seems to be a spiteful attempt to get back at his father.
The film would be much more powerful had Henry been torn between two loves; one, his familial love of his father, and the other, his sexual attraction to his lover. The film would be so much more compelling (and believable) if Senator Kray were to be basically a good man with extreme beliefs or if Henry were to be a true believer in his father's politics, who had to face how it conflicts with the reality of his own sexuality. Or what if Sen. Kray were a liberal whose politically correct rhetoric masks a homophobic mind? And though Anthony and his fellow activists aren't shown in a particularly flattering light either, the story overly stacks the deck to the left by making Senator Kray an oh-so obvious right-wing villain in a tired attempt to make clear the film's already obvious left-leaning bias. The result is weak propaganda and even weaker drama.
Worse, all the cheap political shots detract from the film's strongest relationship, between Newton's Henry and Jack Noseworthy's Anthony. Both actors give fine performances, helped considerably by the fact they are given the most realistic characters to play. Newton captures the anxiety of Henry, a guy who just wants to live his life out of the public eye, but finds the comfort that comes from living in the closet comes at a high price. Noseworthy makes credible a character who can't quite separate his sexuality from his politics, which, ironically, is the problem with the film itself. The film's most potent message would have been in exploring this love story rather than in focusing on all the yammering political noise that surrounds these two men.
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