Writer/director Keith Hartman’s first feature film overflows with a decidedly queer batch of stereotypical characters who, nonetheless, still manage to evoke a few laughs, a couple of tears and hope that the outtake reels might provide more detailed revelations of some of the physiques on offer.
As a primer for newly astonished parents (who’ve likely always known their child is “you know” but have mastered the dignity-saving art of willfull blindness: 30-years-old, living with a roommate to “share the expenses …”), this production is a painless entry into the world of same-sex culture. Hopefully, newcomers will see this as a stepping stone to a more realistic investigation as to how to walk the talk of “We love you no matter who you are.”
The breezy set-up focusses on a grandmother-in-waiting widow (Joanne McKee truly carries the show playing Mae, the relatively quick-to-convert mom who refocuses her filial efforts from “cure” to actively prowling for her son’s future Mr. Right) and her spinster sister (as Rose—cue the set dressers …—Carol Goans morphs from into-bed-by-nine dullard to hiney savouring, drag queen adoring senior-about-town: her extreme makeover is an early hoot) reeling over their son/nephew Brian (Stewart Carrico, intentionally pastel, it seems, amongst all of the colourful troupe) “passing” the Glamour Magazine “Is Your Son Gay?” quiz with a rainbow-infused score that any Friend of Dorothy could take pride in. Speaking of score, David Paul Dorn’s zesty tracks also feature a somewhat subtle aural cue during the lavender test as a solo faggot (er, bassoon) can be heard, confirming the scientific diagnosis; later the classical piano interlude during the gayest dinner party in Alabama is artfully inserted.
After the prognosis is made, the cliché parade begins its relentless march to the credits.
A mandatory visit (every mother hopes religion can save their offspring from, they believe, a life of scorn and ridicule) to Gay-Be-Gone, replete with electric shock therapy that brings new meaning to sad sack (happily, this sort of “persuasion” is now reserved for uncooperative “terrorists”) convinces the well-meaning women to look further afield.
Then before you can say “Cruising on the Internet” (and courtesy of the computer-savvy, full-of-himself “pop gun,” next-door neighbour Greg—Chris Nolan gamely struts his lithe torso), the dauntless stalkers end up in an image-rich chat room, learning more than they—initially—bargained for about just what man-to-man encounters, er, entail.
Soon the Birmingham suburbanites are lined up for an ID check on the way into a nightclub for sodomites. Once there, Hartman’s best scenes unfold as the determined duo comes fact-to-face with the usual suspects. Queen of them all (just ask her/him) Fantasia, (Acquah Dansoh can hold court with the best of them), steals every chest-teasing scene she’s in, landing deft jibes and anti-racial points on behalf of those who savour real silk and Jimmy Choo’s everywhere. Matt Palazzolo makes for a charming Latino tramp, Salsa Rojah, sporting an insatiable appetite for whatever’s cooking in the kitchen or the backrooms—decked out in shorty shorts and string briefs, of course. Stripper Chase (Steve Snyder), sadly for both sexes, isn’t afforded an on-camera money shot, but holds everyone’s undivided attention—even Brian’s after he decides to go straight with bible thumping financée, Jennie Sue (Ginger Pullman morphs through her sudden change with Southern grace, if perhaps she doesn’t protest enough, methinks).
Following the introduction of the cut-out players, the remainder of the film is a series of family dinners that puts all remaining plot and political points (the portrait of George Bush is most certainly well hung) on the table so that when the prime bigots—Jennie Sue’s parents—arrive for a chow down with Queer Nation, their own hypocritical pasts are just the last item on the check list of oft-depicted homosexual mores and situations.
Still, after the opening frames have been dispensed with and the cast finds its groove, this harmless confection moves gaily along thanks in no little part to Jeremy Grant’s ever-roving camera and tight editing by Donna Mathewson.
The already converted will leave the cinema smiling, those with a nagging feeling that there’s something not quite right deep down or whose kids seem to have extraordinary fashion sense, might well want to take Hartman’s test anonymously then come to their own conclusions on this score. JWR