Little 'Boy' Bland

Friday, April 13, 2007

The short film "Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World" -- which is cast to amusing effect with Lego people doing things that undoubtedly must horrify the Lego company -- was enjoyable, and the prospect of seeing a feature film by the director Q. Allan Brocka seemed rather promising.

Alas, "Boy Culture" proves in its 88 tedious minutes that Brocka creates an abundantly richer cinematic experience using plastic toy figurines -- and does so in 80 fewer minutes. Based on a 1995 novel by Matthew Rettenmund and feeling about as fresh as such an artifact of mercurial gay culture could, "Boy Culture" chronicles the romantic awakening of a Seattle prostitute identified as X (Derek Magyar), who harbors feelings for his roommates (Jonathon Trent and Darryl Stephens) as well as for an elderly client (Patrick Bauchau), who pays for conversation but doesn't want sex until X "desires" him. What X mostly desires is the financial independence (he's one of those fancy prostitutes) and emotional distance that his career helps him maintain. He's also obsessed with a Virgin Mary statue stashed in his closet; she pops up at predictable intervals to accompany his wryly confessional voice-overs: "Forgive me, father, for I have . . . [whatever]." And much of X's romantic energy is tied up in a lingering infatuation that stems from a boyhood sexual liaison with a cousin (eww).

If anything about this scenario sounds remotely interesting, it's not. Opportunities for dramatic tension, comedic effect, erotic energy, even just flat-out weirdness -- all are squandered by Brocka and the actors in a haze of blandness that gives the film all the edge of a particularly gay Gap commercial. In the future, the filmmaker might heed a legendary word of cinematic advice: "Plastics."

-- Jonathan Padget

Boy Culture Unrated, 88 minutes Contains sexual content, profanity and adult situations. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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