Monday, December 14, 2009

Screen Queens: Indie Romance

MattCanada here with another week of gay cinema. In many ways Trick is the perfect companion film to last week's entry My Best Friend's Wedding because it explores similar themes, the search for Mr. Right and the gay man-straight female friendship, but this time from the other perspective- that of the gay male

Trick is one of my favorite films of the nineties, and pretty much the perfect gay romantic comedy. At the core of the film is the relationship between struggling musical theatre writer Gabriel (Christian Campbell) and Go-Go Boy Mark (John Paul Pitoc), after a chance meeting on the subway. The dynamic between these two has a truthfulness to it and is thoroughly seducing. As they search the city for somewhere to hook up, what develops is sensitive and romantic. The believable grounding chemistry of Mark and Gabe allows for the excess of virtually everything surrounding them, especially the over the top supporting characters.

The pick up scene on the subway is characteristic of the film's naturalistic approach when it comes to the future lovers. The camera holds focus on Gabe looking at a sleeping Mark, and it cuts from his gazing face to point of view shots as he looks up Mark's Adonis-like body. He then gets caught staring by a fellow subway patron and quickly averts his eyes, only to have his gaze slowly brought back to sleeping Mark. While looking Mark opens his eyes and makes direct eye contact with Gabe, who nervously looks away.

This whole sequence is done brilliantly. The tension of looking is conveyed perfectly, as well as the reality that there is something at stake. In essence, that in gazing (homo)sexually so publicly there are potential fruits, but also inherent dangers. The balance between Gabe's reticence, especially when met with an acknowledging look, and the steadfastness of his scopophilia captures the essence of cruising and makes it cinematic. It is because of moments like these that the film remains grounded while introducing less realist events and more excessive characters.

The primary of these excess is Tori Spelling's Katherine, the gay best friend and aspiring actress/singer/superstar. Her performance is such a revelation (although I must admit I loved her as Donna in 90210). The friendship between Katherine and Gabe is extremely close, but unlike My Best Friend's Wedding, it is not idealised or viewed in any way as a substitute or makeup for a sexual/romantic union. Katherine is larger than life, and Spelling is always noticeably performing the grandness and theatricality of her character. She has two standout moments which are highlights of the film. First, her rendition of Gabe's song "Enter You" for a musical theatre workshop brings new meaning to the word camp.

Katherine's singing is vocally atrocious, but as a piece of performance it is showstopping. The there's the final Katherine sequence wherein she crashes Gabe and Mike's post-makeup date. It's hilarious, insane, and touching. "Why can't you be straight?", she asks revealing her love for her gay-BFF. The friendship between the two is shown as central to both, but essentially problematic because of the non-reciprocal feelings.

The film has many other joys, especially drag queen Miss Coco Peru's jealous monologue and Steve Hayes' musical theatre aficionado Perry (interesting side note is that Mr. Hayes now does a youtube series called Tired Old Queen at the Movies). Each are given extended scenes to perform and showcase their talent, and these narrative detours are jewels.

It's an interesting film to view in relation to My Best Friend's Wedding, and ultimately it's the indie Trick which is the more traditional "romantic comedy"; sidelining the de-sexualised best friend, focusing on the romantic couple, and featuring heroes which are immensely likable. Trick is a movie which manages to be both realistic and camp at once, and this careful balancing act makes the film a delight.


Glenn Dunks said...

While it's obviously far better than dreck like Another Gay Movie and so on, I can only say I liked Trick, not loved. The film has a great atmosphere, but like so many other gay films it falls down in the writing department. All the characters are so one-note (the room-mate, the drag queen, the pretty boy, the shy lead) and that scene with the piano was... I dunno. Strange.

Ryan T. said...

It'll always have a special place in my heart as it was my first gay movie after coming out to myself. I can watch it over and over.


I actually don't like this movie at all BUT (and this is a big but) this is the only one of two movies ever made that I'm aware of that was filmed exactly where I lived.

the shots in Gabe's hallways is my EXACT building when i first moved to NY the year this movie came out so they must have filmed in there just months or even mere weeks before i moved in.

the other movie filmed practically right on top of me was TARNATION (he must have lived like a block from me while making it)

it's so weird to see your house or your street or your hallway in a movie!

Anonymous said...

Trick is horribly flawed--awkward pauses in dialogue, really dull middle, mostly annoying characters (I can only stand Gabe and Mark)-- but I can't help but like the film.