This is just a wonderful film -- full of heart, humor and sweetness. And it never sinks into saccharine!
Jared Hillman ("Jeff") and Noah Fleiss ("Steve") play two teenagers skateboarding downtown in a major city. Jeff cajoles his friend to "pleeeeeeeze" do him a favor, "one last time." It's so well-written and acted that it sounds the like sort of gentle whining you hear all the time on playgrounds and in malls. Steve agrees -- "one last time" but chides Jeff that "there's no big deal about it."
But there is: Steve walks around the corner to a newsstand, where he not-quite subtly starts to peruse the X-rated porno magazines (straight and gay) mixed in with the sports, bridal and news journals. He grabs a sports magazine when a 20-something man looks at him. When a young prudish woman looks down her nose at him, he yanks out a bridal magazine (it's one of the film's most uproarious moments!).
But it's the ending of this terrific short film that is so funny that you need to see it over and over to get every joke.
Suddenly, the Hindu owner of the newsstand confronts Steve. But instead of admonishing him, the man enthusiastically encourages Steve to express his homosexuality. "All these are banned in my country," the man says, as a crowd gathers and Steve is aghast at the man's loud comments. The man smiles and supports Steve in his "coming out, gay and proud!" Steve grabs a magazine and goes.
Of course, it's for Jeff. Jeff and Steve wander off, best friends and porno in hand.
There is some terrific physical acting from Noah Fleiss (who still looks 15, even though he's almost 20). The blushing, the head-hanging, the wide eyes -- he is a great physical actor who really knows how to express complex human emotions (like shame) with a superb naturalness and ease. His delivery of the great line ("I read it for the articles") is said with such sincerity that parents everywhere will be able to recognize that bald-faced lie and guffaw just like I did. The film's conclusion is infused with an honesty, innocence and sense of freedom that has a certain poignant resonance in post-9/11 America. In a country where censorship is now the norm and difference is frowned upon, the newsstand owner's faith in American liberty -- including the freedom to be openly gay and proud of it -- is especially important. And the film isn't maudlin or too sugary about the friendship between the two boys, which any lesser film would have ladled on thick as honey.
This is such a pleasant film there is a tendency to dismiss it as fluff. But don't. It's terrific!
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