Film / Change is in the air, with #GayIsOkay trending on Twitter and President Barack Obama having “come out” with a public endorsement of same-sex marriage. Even hip-hop’s own commander-in-chief, Jay-Z, recently defended the community, equating the cause with a civil right and calling its legalization “the right thing to do.” With all this outpouring of support–except for your party foul, North Carolina!–the timing couldn’t be better for the 23rd Annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, slated for its weekend run this May 31 through June 3.
From the cute (closing night film Men to Kiss) to the camp (the transgender romp Madame X), we preview this year’s 14-feature lineup by highlighting three memorable inclusions: an understated love triangle, an over-the-top farce, and a documentary on a figure who helped pave a way for both to exist.
That sensation you get when the sun is so high it creates those hazy, lazy ripples where you can’t see clearly? That’s the feeling surrounding the three male leads in indie drama August, an accomplished debut from writer-director Eldar Rapaport that simmers with stylish cinematography, nuanced performances and a refreshingly complex world-view of love and relationships.
After a five-year stretch in Spain, Troy returns to his LA hometown where he phones his ex, Jonathan. The two meet for a seemingly harmless cup of coffee and “How’s life?” conversation that silently rustles a set of unsettled emotions between them, all further complicated by the fact Jonathan has a new boyfriend, Raul. Unraveled in a non-linear fashion (that at times circles in on itself like memories themselves), August follows the three as they try to make sense of their shared past, present and ultimately, future. While for some this basic plotline may run thin, Rapaport earns our trust with his confidence to tell it.
Though wrapped up in a wrenchingly vulnerable score and frames forever tinged in auburn tones, we respond to the naturalism of the three leads (Murray Bartlett, Daniel Dugan, and Adrian Gonzalez). Startling expressiveness colors many scenes, from men in the act of exhaling a cloud of hookah or wiping foam off the rim of a latte. In these quiet cues, the rich ordinariness of August gleams through. And with more than enough of them sprinkled throughout to get lost in, you find yourself identifying with the mindset of the characters themselves: not quite ready for the smoke to clear, even though you know that eventually it must.
Birds of a Feather
Filmmaking itself is like building a nest. You select and pull from the world around you to create something that can hopefully sustain the life you made. That’s what writer-director-actor Anthony Meindl’s done with Birds of a Feather, a broad comedy set in a small world: Hollywood.
When three theatre junkies, Mark (Meindl), Julie (Lindsay Frame) and Trudy (Danielle Hoover) reunite after a decade of falling out, the three find themselves putting together a reimagining of Chekhov’s The Seagull with a band of aspiring misfit actors–to catastrophic results.
Part-musical, part-Three’s Company, Birds is at times uneven and all over the place, but that’s also its source of energy and free spiritedness, allowing for animated sequences and erratic cameos from Olympia Dukakis and Bruce Vilanch. In a case of life imitating art, Meindl is someone who’s been in the show business game long enough to know not to always take it sooo seriously. It shows.
As with most post-collegiate friendships, life simply comes between them. In dramedy The Skinny, five Brown University graduates–four men and their female best friend, all living in different parts of country, all still searching for themselves–reunite for one weekend against the backdrop of New York City’s Pride. Re-examined relationships and tested friendships between fresh-faced twentysomethings ensue.
Noah’s Arc creator Patrik-Ian Polk (who on his Twitter bio refers to himself as “The gay Tyler Perry”) continues with his strides to portray men and women of color in more diverse roles, ones underrepresented in an already underrepresented circle in the media. Polk’s forte for slick and sassy one-liners and crisp cinematography are on full display here.
But amid the sometimes frank and funny sex talk and sometimes soul-searching heart-to-hearts that dominate The Skinny, there’s one turn of events (which we won’t reveal here) that demands the audience’s attention. Some might see it as overtly moralistic or too PSA, but regardless, it’s a real situation that’ll surely open up questions and invite opinions on recreational drugs, sex and consent. Like much of the dialogue that drives the film, The Skinny itself feels like a conversation starter.