In its themes and character development, "Get Real" is somewhere between "Maurice" and "Beautiful Thing." Steven Carter is basically the Maurice/Jamie character, while John Dixon might be destined to follow the path of Clive Durham (played by Hugh Grant in "Maurice"), who like Dixon, is a bit higher up in the British class sytem.
I found myself charmed by the movie, but irritated. Many say the film demands a sequel; and while I'd like to see such a work, the call for a sequel stems partly from the film's narrative inadequacies. Ostensibly about Steven Carter coming out, Carter is nevertheless not the heart of the movie--especially one with the title "Get Real." Carter has already gotten real with himself. But his coming out speech is a product of writer fiat and not particularly realistic in terms of how the film executes it (ie, given in front of the entire school).
I felt the heart lay more with the other gay character, John Dixon, and this is where the movie frankly begins to cheat. Ben Silverstone has garnered much deserved praise for portraying Steven, but Brad Gorton really has the harder job. The Dixon character is much more complex, almost Jekyll and Hyde in the coin flip between fear and love, and how this person with a great underlying capacity for joy and tenderness is beaten down by demons both outer and inner. John Dixon is a far more realistic character, and his inability to admit his homosexuality in a public manner is a much greater mirror of the times--and of gay history in its totality. Also, this is a character who has just admitted to himself that he's gay--after that scene, the movie's timespan takes up barely, say, a few weeks worth of narration--imagine the kind of leap Steven is expecting John to make, when Steven has trouble being open and he's accepted his gayness for over 5 years.
The greatest cheat comes when Kevin Grainger, one of John's friends and Steven's tormentors, finds Steven and John together in a swimming pool--in a pretty "dodgy" position (John is sitting on Steven's shoulders). John is completely at peace with the situation--leading one to think, Ok, this character has accepted himself at last (the scene occurs after John has decided to openly allow others at their school to know he has formed a friendship with Steven, so the swimming pool scene seems like a natural progression). John's subsequent actions are such a regression, they become a plot contrivance.
The second cheat is the ending itself, which tries to tack on a happy conclusion that doesn't resolve any character conflicts--Steven gets into his friend Linda's car, and they drive off to an Aretha Franklin song. This is not getting real. Had the filmmakers cut that scene in favor of about 10 more minutes of dialogue between John and Steven, this would be a much more superior movie. It isn't necessary for the two to get together and start slow dancing on the soccer field, their relationship renewed; but it's far more real for two people who've been through a lot to sit and actually talk to each other, regardless of their emotions (unless it's utter hate, which is far from the case here). These characters hardly exchange any meaningful talk at all, and that strikes me as laziness on the writer's part.
The filmmakers are going for ambiguity regarding the future between Steven and John, and I respect that. Steven's last words to John are a personal plea--"Be happy." This plea could go either way: telling John to be happy in his life, which isn't going to involve Steven; or telling John to be happy about "what I just did in there" (ie, coming out so publicly), because it's going to serve as a model for John's subsequent liberation. After all, John's father is already suspicious after John is caught lying about not knowing Steven. Pointed questions about their friendship are bound to arise, and in a way one extrapolates that John has had the burden of coming out somewhat lifted from his shoulders by Steven's public outcry. Taken altogether, the movie hints that Steven's father will come around and that John and Steven will have their "more romantic moments."
In my mental sequel, anyway, the two end up being just fine. But the two characters could have talked far more while still leaving the fate of their love relationship undetermined. These are both smart characters trying to figure themselves and each other out, and the movie missed a crucial moment to let them really spar with each other. Others my well conclude that at this point in the action, the two have nothing further to say to each other. I can only disagree.
All in all, a good movie--vastly superior to American teen flicks, which all seem to star Drew Barrymore or Freddie Prinze Jr. One last question: if you were Steven Carter and had just spent your first night in bed naked with the love of your dreams, John Dixon, would you have gotten out of bed (with him still in it) to fix breakfast? To go to the bathroom? Get real.
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