From the opening line, (“What am I looking for?”) it is clear that Gary Entin’s first feature is going to be short on subtlety and long on too-on-the-nose situations. Curiously, it’s one of the slight subplots (Teo Olivares gamely takes on the role of, Brian, a cross-dressing, chronic chicken choker) that slips seamlessly into public hazing/bullying only to have the victim show more maturity than the rest of the writers’—Brent Hartinger (novel) and Edmund Entin (screenplay)—characters combined.
Still, the legions of young teens who have ever felt the sting of public humiliation will come away feeling stronger in their own skins, no matter what lies underneath.
The rest of the cast exude cookie-cutter stereotypes rather than any real notion of complexity or depth.
Russell (Cameron Deane Smith perpetually warms the screen with his quiet charm and boyish good looks) struggles with his inner-gay (a hetero montage during a bike ride, accompanied by Mozart’s clarinet concerto is a smile-inducing segment—more, please), is being groomed by his family for Yale even as visions of hot young men torment him at school.
Thanks to an overnight field trip, Russell finally gets into lip-lock with a mysterious on-line dating no-show: Goodkind High School’s football star, no less (Justin Deeley as Kevin does his best as the closeted athlete, whose dad has no qualms about entertaining his gay brother and new-found romance, making Kevin’s straight-at-all-costs demeanour a little tough to swallow).
Naturally, the late-night smooch doesn’t go unnoticed, adding a modicum of drama until it is soon realized that Min (engagingly portrayed by Ally Maki) and her buds in Geography Club are all Friends of Dorothy: outing is not an option, however member recruitment becomes a priority.
Of course Russell’s best pal, Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell has a curious resemblance to the timing and tone of John Goodman) is hot for the gentler sex and drags his unwilling chum into a date from hell that can only end badly. The two girls, boozer, nasty-mouth Kim (Allie Gonino) and nicer-by-half—although sporting a virgin-declaring promise ring—Trish (Meaghan Martin, radiant at every turn, valiantly struggling with her character’s arc: “fag!” seems totally at odds with her persona) dutifully, if unconvincingly set up Russell’s own campus-wide moment of truth.
Aside from a brief, skins-and-shirts football scrum, eye candy is in short supply, leaving the narrative to score enough points to reward viewers’ attention from stem to stern. Here’s hoping both Entins will dig a little deeper into the human experience for their next project. All the better to find out, deep down, just what they are made of as well. JWR