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last update 21.Sep.08
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Holding Trevor
dir Rosser Goodman
scr Brent Gorski
with Brent Gorski, Jay Brannan, Melissa Searing, Eli Kranski, Christopher Wyllie, Dawn Mondie, Yaniv Madmon, Joseph Roslan, Megan Sheperd, Mathew Pasillas, Monica Todd, Isaiah Garnica
brannan, gorski and searing release US 4.Jul.08,
UK 22.Sep.08 dvd
07/US 1h28
holding trevor Despite its low-budget scruffiness, this gentle Los Angeles drama finds surprising depth in its characters and situations, examining a group of people struggling to move forward with their lives.

Trevor (Gorski) can't seem to let go of his ex-boyfriend and first-love Darrell (Wyllie), a junkie who keeps relapsing. His best friends Jake and Andie (Brannan and Searing) urge him to cut Darrell loose, but they're not exactly the best examples of relational stability. Then Trevor meets Ephram (Kranski), a doctor who sparks a romance that's strained by Trevor's inability to sort out his life. Then Ephram invites Trevor to move with him to New York, forcing Trevor to face his issues head on.

The film's offhanded, improvised style lends authenticity through sharp humour and intense melodrama. While the script indulges in some cautionary plotting and cod-psychology dialog, it centres engagingly on the characters and their interaction, with intriguing flashbacks of recent events that allow us to see them in striking perspective. This vividly brings out the central idea that it's sometimes necessary to painfully cut connections with those around us.

Performances are real and extremely naturalistic, with Gorski holding the film together superbly. We don't always like Trevor, but we do root for him to sort out his relationships and make the right decisions. The romantic chemistry between Gorski and Kranski is cute and sweet rather than hot and bothered, which is perhaps unlikely. But Brannan and Searing add a sharp edge to the film with their dry cynicism. And as all of the characters' secrets and failings come to a head, the film has a forceful kick.

Basically this is a story about a group of apparently happy people who are suddenly forced to face up to the things that are eating them away from the inside. Even if the plot opts out of some of the most difficult confrontations, the filmmakers acknowledge that making these decisions isn't easy, and that sometimes having supportive friends isn't enough. These undercurrents add a level of interest that transcends the film's otherwise soapy style and makes it thoroughly identifiable to anyone who's ever felt helpless to control the direction of their life.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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The Houseboy
dir-scr Spencer Schilly
with Nick May, Blake Young-Fountain, Damien Fuentes, Tom Merlino, Brian Patacca, Michael Hill, Michael Apuzzo, Peter Bloch, Matthew Sandager, Daren Dillon, Murray Hill, The World Famous *BoB*
young-fountain and may release US 1.Jul.08 dvd,
UK 25.Aug.08 dvd
07/US 1h25
the houseboy The frothy tone of this film provides an intriguing counterpoint to some very serious themes gurgling under the surface of this low-budget drama. It also helps make up for the somewhat clunky production values.

Ricky (May) is a 21-year-old living in romantic bliss with a gay couple (Merlino and Patacca), who are taking a vacation for Christmas and ask him to watch their house. Obsessed by thoughts that they are about to dump him, Ricky quickly gets bored in the house and embarks on a drugs and sex binge, telling everyone he plans to kill himself on Christmas Eve. But the pointlessness of it all starts to get to him, and is highlighted when me meets sensitive, happy art student Blake (Young-Fountain) who reminds him of his own dreams of becoming a painter.

Writer-director Schilly boldly dives into this story, focussing on the characters to such a degree that we don't mind his homemade filmmaking style. The camera is rather leery as it prowls around these young boys in various states of undress, but Schilly keeps the tone relaxed and unforced, indulging in silly asides (including a cheesy dress-up sequence). The sex scenes are choppy and perfunctory, with no dramatic context, which gives the impression that there's probably a porn version of this movie out there somewhere.

But underneath the breezy story of mindless sex, drugs and boredom, the film has a darkly provocative heart. Schilly catches the immediate rush and utter joylessness of this lifestyle, complete with startlingly honest touches, such as the boy who writes his mother's phone number on his foot, just in case he's found unconscious (or dead) in the morning. May is very good as Ricky, and his suicidal comments are both jokey and believable. And his slowly emerging friendship with Blake is a real surprise: it's about finding a human connection without sex or drugs, as Ricky begins to see that maybe he could fit in with the world around him.

18 themes, language, sexuality, drugs
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dir-scr Jonah Markowitz
with Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes, Jackson Wurth, Katie Walder, Matt Bushell, Ross Thomas, Albert Reed Don Margolin, Joy Gohring, Alejandro Patino, Caitlin Crosby
rowe and wright
release US 21.Mar.08,
UK 11.Aug.08 dvd
07/US Here 1h37
shelter There's a superbly relaxed and realistic tone to this gentle drama about a young man trying to accept his sexuality. The plot is a bit neat and tidy, but the emotions are real, and filmmaker Markowitz is willing to touch on some serious themes.

Zach (Wright) is a 20-ish Los Angeles surfer who lives in a working class home with his party-girl sister Jeanne (Holmes), her smart son Cody (Wurth) and their sickly dad (Margolin). Because of this home situation, Zach has put off going to art school, working as a diner cook and spending his little spare time hitting the waves with rich pal Gabe (Thomas). One day, he runs into Gabe's 30-ish brother Shaun (Rowe) on the beach, and a spark of attraction ignites feelings Zach would rather keep submerged.

Markowitz takes a complex route through this material, even though the cast of characters feels fairly schematic. Zach's street-artist ambitions threaten the fragile balance at home, while his emerging sexuality has striking ramifications for everyone, mainly his estranged girlfriend (Walder). And while homophobia emerges in the expected places, it's Zach's internal struggle that makes the film more involving than most coming out (or coming of age) melodramas.

Wright plays the role with just the right balance of humour and intelligence, making Zach a likeable young man caught in the vice-grip of his situation. This is highlighted by Holmes' tough performance as his selfish, demanding sister. And the dynamic between them has some surprising textures. Meanwhile, Rowe nicely captures that surfer dude vibe; his scenes with Zach have an easy charm as they talk casually and goof around on the beach, all underscored by a real sense of attraction.

As a director, Markowitz isn't particularly ambitious. The film's perhaps a bit too low-key and sometimes rather mopey, but the beach setting is gorgeous, and the surfing scenes have a nice cinematic quality. What makes it worth watching is the way the relationships feel so utterly real, with authentic wit and humour, plus some truthful awkwardness. These are recognisably real people with all their imperfections, and we can identify with them in their efforts to do the right thing.

15 themes, language
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The 2 Sides of the Bed
3/5   Los 2 Lados de la Cama
dir Emilio Martínez Lázaro
scr David Serrano
with Ernesto Alterio, Guillermo Toledo, Alberto San Juan, Secun de la Rosa, Pilar Castro, Lucía Jiménez, Verónica Sánchez, María Esteve, Juana Acosta, Marga Escudero, Helena Castañeda, Mayte Pastor
alterio release Sp 21.Dec.05,
UK 8.Sep.08 dvd
05/Spain Canal+ 1h44
the 2 sides of the bed Filmmakers Lazaro and Serrano are back with a sequel to their 2002 hit The Other Side of the Bed, continuing on their premise that "everyone is bisexual" for another musical-comedy farce. The relational carnage is even messier, but the film is silly and enjoyable.

Three years later, buddies Javier and Pedro (Alterio and Toledo) have settled down with new girlfriends Marta and Raquel (Sanchez and Jimenez). But on Javier's wedding day, Marta runs off with Raquel, sending the boys into spasms of depression, helped by the drunken livewire Carlota (Castro). Meanwhile, their friend Rafa (San Juan) asks his pal Carlos (de la Rosa) to help spy on his girlfriend (Esteve), who he's sure is cheating. What Rafa doesn't know is that the other man is Carlos.

Bright and colourful, the film has that same Almodovar-lite tone as the original, maintaining a sexy vibe that's more comical than romantic or even sexual. The focus is on the growing farce, as these lively characters struggle to keep their relationships on track, constantly forced to look at things from new, previously unthinkable angles. And of course over-reacting to everything. Meanwhile, every 10 minutes or so they break into song, recreating a pop tune from the 1970s or 1980s, complete with backing dancers and elaborate choreography.

While it's not as astute as the first film, there's a slightly darker undercurrent, with the sense that perhaps the kind of relationship these characters would like to have doesn't actually exist. The actors are all terrific on screen--twitchy and engaging, full of mistaken jealousy, rampant infidelity and misplaced trust. The women are knowing and sharp, while the men are oblivious and pathetic in their deep machismo.

Alterio and Toledo have far the best chemistry on screen; their interaction is cute and ridiculous, and loaded with a lifetime of being best mates. And San Juan hilariously captures Rafa's puppy-dog desperation. By contrast, Sanchez and Jimenez are a bit too icy to be convincing. Even so, the film keeps our attention mainly because we have no idea what will happen next, from surreal touches to the knotty plot turns.

15 themes, language, innuendo
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall