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OUTING RILEY may feel a bit self serving, as though Bobby Riley, the
main character of the film, is sitting in a Confessional Booth
revealing his secret, and in fact that is certainly the case as the
film was conceived, lived, written, directed and stars Pete Jones as
Bobby. This may account for some of the awkward sense of some of the
dialog: it is difficult to be up front about an issue with a history as
embedded as the theme of this film. But despite these minor flaws, this
little film has a heart of gold and a cast of actors who bring it to
life in a good way.
Bobby Riley (Pete Jones) is an Irish Catholic closeted gay man living in Chicago with his partner Andy (Michael McDonald). Bobby is being pressured by Andy and by his informed sister Maggie (Julie Pearl) to come out to his family - a good Irish Catholic family of four brothers, a sister, and a dying father (Bob Riley). His facade with his brothers is a mime of voyeurism of 'chicks' and a beer drinking butch life. Each family member has a secret: Maggie can't hold a relationship and is unable to keep secrets; Connor (Stoney Westmoreland) is addicted to internet porn; Jack (Dev Kennedy) is a priest who has problems with the conflicts the church places on his own beliefs; Luke (the always outstanding Nathan Fillion) is a pothead. Once Maggie decides she must out Bobby, the brothers are conflicted: homophobia raises its ugly head despite the bonds of close family ties. How the family comes to grips with Bobby's being gay, individually and as a family, is the crux of the tale.
This is a fine cast (especially Fillion and Pearl) and the story rolls along at a fine pace. At times it feels 'dishonest' but that is in the script, not the acting. This is not a major film, but it just may be a helpful one to families and friends who are curious about the lifestyle of someone who has surprised them with a similar secret! Grady Harp
I have to give credit to Pete Jones, who wrote, directed and starred in
this low-budget 2004 indie, for having the temerity to make a
coming-out film when he is apparently straight. And therein lies the
rub since Jones doesn't really lend an informed perspective to his
protagonist's trying situation. He plays Bobby Riley, a Chicago
advertising account executive who happens to be gay and happily
partnered. He also happens to come from a traditional Irish-Catholic
family, a sister who knows he's gay and three brothers who don't. The
movie is primarily about Bobby's struggle to come out to his brothers
now that their father has just passed away and the time has come for
their annual fishing trip together. While one can envision how Bobby's
admission would lead to liberation and tolerance, Jones also
superficially belabors Bobby's angst to the aggravating point of making
me indifferent to his fate.
A lot of the problem I had with the movie is the predictable and often forced humor Jones employs to ingratiate the character to the viewer. In what strikes me as film-making laziness, he goes as far as breaking the fourth wall, speaking to the camera, and using freeze-frames to either provide thumbnail sketches of the principal characters or comment on the action. The set-up with the brothers is also pretty generic as they represent variations on the beer-guzzling stereotypes one would expect from a movie at least forty years older. Two are married - Luke is a pothead with twin daughters, and Connor is a John Sununu look-alike who surfs the Web for porn. Oldest brother Jack is a Catholic priest, which sets him up for the most challenging road toward acceptance. Once the key revelation occurs, the inevitable ramifications at least allow for the film's few honest moments, the most effective being Luke's angry voicemail message in response to what he sees as Bobby's betrayal.
In his acting debut, the cherubic Jones makes little impression as the bedeviled Bobby. Nathan Fillion, who would later play the smitten doctor in the late Adrienne Shelly's "Waitress", fares the best among the actors portraying the brothers, and Michael McDonald of "MADtv" (not the singer) is surprisingly credible as Bobby's partner Andy. Julie Pearl is forced to play Bobby's sister Maggie as the nagging voice of conscience in order to facilitate the contrived plot conceit that proves disappointing toward the end. Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm", "I Want to Someone to Eat Cheese With") shows up in a cameo as a blowhard agency honcho trying to recruit Bobby believing him to be straight. I appreciate how Jones does not wrap everything up nicely at the end, although he sadly uses a stereotypical fantasy swimming number to get his point across. The much-delayed 2007 DVD features a commentary track from Jones, interviews and deleted scenes.
This film is about a young man having to come out to his 4 brothers,
including a catholic priest, that he is gay.
I find "Outing Riley" a lot more entertaining than many gay films. For a start, it is made really professionally. It has got nice sets, good camera work and also people who can act! The most refreshing thing of all is that it has no campness, stereotypes or clichés that plagues a lot of these films. Much of the time, I thought I was watching a straight film. It's just like watching "American Pie" at times, for example having 4 guys drinking and goofing around, peeping at hot girls. If the character Andy was changed to a woman, then "Outing Riley" could well have been a typical Hollywood romantic or teenage sex comedy.
That's why it's called ACTING? HELLO? I loved this film! I thought it
was well done. WTF is wrong with people? I thought it was a typical
macho straight family response to act the way they did, and 'OF COURSE'
a family member who is a priest is going to act the way he did. Yes,
there were a lot of stereotypes in this film. Hell, stereotypes have
got to come from somewhere, right? I know many queer people and gee,
we're all one big diverse family just like the rest of the world!
Too many GLBT people are shunned by their family when they 'come out'. Many gay and lesbian bi and trans people lose all contact with family and may end up committing suicide. Especially people under 25. Everybody needs to know that they are LOVED.
Please don't shut GLBT family and friends out of your life.
I loved this movie!
As far as I know, from what I saw on Project Greenlight, Pete Jones
isn't gay. So, I'm curious what motivated him to make this film, and to
play the gay lead. It's not forbidden - and I'm always happy to see
filmmakers portraying gays positively in their work - it just seems a
little odd. And, in fact, that's one of the weaknesses of the film:
Pete Jones doesn't really come across as gay. I'm not saying he should
act effeminate or anything like that. It's just that that there was
something not quite "on" about the scenes between his character and the
character's boyfriend. At other times, I really got the impression that
he'd watched "Jeffrey" a few too many times, and was trying to imitate
The other element that really didn't work for me was the voice-over and talking to the camera. It drew too much attention to itself, wasn't as funny as he seemed to think it was, and often didn't tell us anything we couldn't have learned from watching the characters interact.
Having said that, though, I think the film also has some excellent writing and strong performances, especially by Nathan Fillion. The best parts of the movie are when the brothers are trying to deal with Riley being gay. Jones is brilliant, when it comes to writing realistic - and very funny - dialog between characters he obviously relates to. This film, and his earlier film, "Stolen Summer", prove him to be a talented writer and director, and it turns out he's not half bad as an actor, either. I really hope he continues to make movies, and they get distribution.
Watch the movie for what it is: A low budget Indie comedy about a man coming out to his Irish Catholic family. There are no deep meanings or inspirational messages. It is not a "Gay" film, and it never attempted to be one. It is a comedy about a Gay topic. More "Will & Grace" than "Citizen Kane." Seems that most people who didn't like the movie were looking for a deeper meaning. If you are looking for a life affirming movie, or one to truly give you insight as to what it is like to grow up Gay in a straight world, this is not your movie. If you want a light hearted look into coming out to your family where you can shut your brain off and just laugh a little, then give it a shot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie surprised me! In many ways, this film takes the established
stereotypes and crashes them against the closet door of our
self-imposed homophobia. Are there gay men who do not fit in? Do they
deserve to have their story told as any other? Is it possible that
there are gay men who love baseball and beer more than a singing diva?
By way of an answer, on the commentary track Pete Jones (Writer/Director) saw how stereotypical the roles of gay men had become in TV and film. At the same time, he wanted to write a comedy and also had friends who were gay guy's guys. While seemingly rehearsed, I feel it to be a genuine revelation of his thought-process for the genesis of the script.
Perceived bad acting aside (you do know this is a low-budget movie, right?), this movie touched me on many levels and I was amazed at the depths of the characters. They were well fleshed out and could have a life outside the film.
*** BEGIN SPOILER *** When he began reading the letter from his father, I cried. Who doesn't want the acknowledgment and love (if not the respect) of their parents? And when his brother's talked about their feelings (and questioned/commented about their brother's "new" lifestyle), they were probably the same questions my brothers asked. This film was as much about the family's reaction as it was about the main character.
My only complaint about the movie was the underwater scene. Up until that point, I was right there! I found it hard to believe that a straight-acting guy like Pete's character would day-dream about this -- even if he thought it was funny and was making fun of it. *** END SPOILER ***
The formula for gay films today is 1) an oddly voyeuristic coming-of-age tale of young love or 2) a man suddenly realizes he has been gay and "comedy" ensues. Both formulas have been done so many times, they seem cliché. If you are a fan of formula, this film is not for you. Finally, if you are criticizing Pete Jones for not having seen a gay film, you may be wrong. He probably saw them and thought "I can do better"!!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm writing this review for people who want to see queer films and who
check reviews to see if a film is worth their time.
Definitely skip this one. The premise of Outing Riley is good, and in the hands of a better writer and director there's a good idea for a story here.
But Outing Riley completely fails as a film. The family relationship that is central to the story feels shallow and false. The plot is meandering and mostly consists of the main character's sister constantly nagging him to come out to the rest of his family (and it does come off as nagging, not concern). The attempts at humor are at best flat but generally annoying and more than a few times seem like the sort of thing you usually come across in R rated teen sex comedies, gratuitous boob shots included.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Over the years, I've had discussion with various gay friends about "gay
sensibility." Does such a thing exist, and, if so, how is it defined?
One way a term can be defined is by negation--telling what something is
not. "Outing Riley" will define by negation very clearly what "Gay
Sensibility" is not. This is a heterosexual teen comedy--only it's not
the least bit funny, if you're older than 14 and have an IQ higher than
Here's a sampling of this film's "humor": Luke and Connor are in a bar where a horse race is being televised. A woman joins them and asks if they have any money on the horses. "Yes," they say. "On number 2, My Face." So they begin cheering the horse on by saying, "Come on, My Face." Finally, as the race ends the woman realizes she's been made a fool of, shouting out in the bar, "Come on (ejaculate) on my face." Ha, ha! Isn't that just a gut-buster? Another scene--a flashback--shows the father getting exercise equipment for Christmas. He tries out the rowing machine or the slant board (I'm uncertain exactly which it was), and after straining his midsection with a few moves, he expels a loud, explosive fart. If that's your idea of comedy, you'll love this film's "humor." And guess where Connor and Luke arrange to meet Bobby's boyfriend Luke? At a hot dog stand named Weiner Circle. Ain't that just too funny?
We are introduced to Bobby's three Irish brothers and his sister. Oldest brother, Jack Riley, is a priest, and the depiction of his character here makes him a disgusting person, which, perhaps, was the filmmaker's intention, though I doubt it. Jack reveals to his brothers bits of scandalous information that he's learned in the confessional. During a baptismal scene, Jack is paying more attention to trying to hear what his two rude brothers and sister are talking about in the church pews while the baptismal ceremony is going on at the altar. He's hypocritical. He's bifurcated--a priest in the church and rectory but someone else quite different when off the church property. Brother Luke Riley is a pothead and magic mushroom devotee, even though he's married, the father of two daughters, and apparently in his early 30s. And then there's Connor Riley, the overweight internet porn addict--also married and a father.
There isn't an iota of conviction in this film. I didn't for a minute believe that Bobby Riley was gay. Pete Jones remained a straight man playing a gay character. I couldn't believe in Bobby and his boyfriend Andy's love for each other. We see mighty little of Bobby and Andy together, for one thing, and when we do see them together, they are awkward and stiff with each other, incapable of speaking naturally, and certainly not behaving as lovers of several years.
We're to believe that Connor and Luke both come to accept Bobby as gay because they arrange a surprise Coming Out party for him. Nonsense. The priest gives out with the usual Catholic line--the church doesn't condemn a homosexual, just homosexual acts. He says he's still praying for Bobby and hopes he'll make a better choice. This guy is the hypocrite to end them all.
Finally, the only gay moment occurs in a brief ten second (or so) fantasy scene that Bobby has which recalls an Esther Williams water ballet as choreographed by Busby Berkeley. So all is not lost, after all!
I don't think a writer, director, or actor has to be gay to portray gays and their lives successfully. I conclude that Pete Jones is an inept writer and director whose heterosexual sensibility and penchant for gross-out teen comedies was glued unto a story about a gay man coming out.
If you want to know what it's like to come out as a gay or lesbian to a family of religious parents and siblings, I'd recommend the excellent "For the Bible Tells Me So." There's no comedy there, though there are, for the most part, happy endings of acceptance. And, yes, there are comedies about gays and lesbians coming out, but "Outing Riley" isn't one of them.
How did this film get made?
Here's a novel idea: a movie about a closeted gay Irish-Catholic whose sexual preference is really secondary to his general personality as a sloppy, stupid grown man who acts like a child. With three brothers (one a priest) and a sister, Pete Jones' Bobby Riley finds he has to use a lesbian as a beard and make lots of small talk about women around his siblings (except for sis, who knows the truth). Thirty minutes into the movie, Bobby is up on a neighbor's roof ogling the female resident as she spreads lotion on her legs, while his voice-over informs us he was a voyeur long before a homosexual. So what was writer-director Jones before he was a pseudo-filmmaker? Offensive to just about everyone (gays, lesbians, Irish-Catholics, priests, women in general), this low-budget effort is filled with innuendo-crazed dialogue and a sniggering familial unit by way of a TV sitcom ('funny' scene example: Riley, after sneaking into his priest-brother's confessional booth, pretends to be a little boy who spies on his grandma in the shower). This is just the thing is kill off cinema (not just Queer Cinema, but ANY cinema) forever. Pure drivel. NO STARS from ****
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