Thursday, September 20, 2012

I Totally Got the Blues: "Dorian Blues" (2005)

When it comes to gay and lesbian films, the genre is full of broad sub-genres. You have the serious AIDS-themed drama, the sexy dating comedy, the "risky" mainstream love story (I'm pointing at some lonely Wyoming cowboys), porn, and the coming-out/coming of age dramedy. "Dorian Blues" falls squarely into this final category. The good news is it's one of the best films of its kind.

The film opens with a funeral. The viewer does not know whose funeral it is as narrator Dorian takes us back to his senior year in high school growing up with a controlling dad (Steven C. Fletcher), a flighty mother (Mo Quigley), and overachieving year-younger brother Nicky (Lea Coco). Dorian is gay, knows it, but has not come out to his father.

He does tell Nicky, then goes to a therapist who makes him role play the coming-out (with a dummy playing Dorian's dad). Dorian even tries religion, guilting himself straight. Nicky also tries "straightening" him out, getting him a hooker for the night (in one of many great scenes). While the eventual coming-out goes as expected, things really change for Dorian when he hits college in New York City.

Tennyson Bardwell (great name!) wrote and directed the film, doing both chores equally well. Even with a small cast and low budget, his direction is very imaginative, hitting all the right notes. I was thrilled that the humor was never over the top and the drama (coming-out scenes rarely work) did not dissolve into pathos. The script might seem busy from a synopsis but Bardwell's pacing moves quickly without turning into a Tony Scott free-for-all. Taylor Morrison's photography is beautiful, giving the film a multi-million dollar look. Also crisp is Ann Marie Lizzi's editing, I cannot remember a bad shot or cut.

The cast is flawless, another rarity for the small gay film. Michael McMillian reminded me of Topher Grace in the role of Dorian. His delivery is natural and funny, with Bardwell's dialogue rolling effortlessly out of the cast's mouths. Thank God Nicky was not written as just another stupid jock. Lea Coco turns in a great, likable performance, and he and McMillian seemed relaxed playing siblings. Kudos as well to Fletcher (who will remind you of your own dad) and Quigley, whose last scene really resonates.

Sure, I hate the DVD cover art, and I had problems with the film's timeline, but those are slight complaints. "Dorian Blues" is one of the funniest films I have seen in a while, and the best coming of age story (gay or otherwise) to come along in ages. Everyone involved should be proud. (* * * * *) out of five stars.