Adam & Steve
Four Stars

Writer/director Craig Chester knows that it isn't enough for a gay comedy to be really, really gay … it has to be really funny, too. There are as many honest laughs in Chester's wild, queer romcom as there are in Wedding Crashers, and in a sane world, Adam & Steve would be a box-office hit of equal magnitude.

The movie begins in the New York of 1987, where a young goth (Chester) hooks up with a nightclub dancer (Malcolm Gets) for an attempted one-night stand that ends in disaster. Suddenly, we're hurtled forward into the present day. Former goth Adam is now a Central Park birdwatcher recovering from cocaine addiction, ex-dancer Steve is a successful psychiatrist, and the whole world is completely different (except that everyone is still dancing to "Obsession" by Animotion). Adam and Steve don't recognize each other when they meet again and fall in love; delaying their inevitable reckoning by nearly 90 minutes gives filmmaker Chester ample time to indulge his razor-sharp perception of gay and straight peccadilloes.

As Steve's Ÿber-hetero roomie, Chris Kattan is the best he's been in years, and nothing beats witnessing Parker Posey evolve from Adam's corpulent fag hag (she gets to wear a fat suit and everything) into a svelte stand-up comic who doesn't understand why her self-deprecating big-girl routine no longer makes a lick of sense. The humor is so on-

target that it's easy to forgive the few vignettes that overreach; Chester even manages to turn the scourge of violent gay-bashing into a hysterical running gag. The sustained howls this movie is bound to inspire at its festival screening will have nothing to do with the liquid refreshment on the tables.

(11 a.m. Saturday at Enzian; silent auction and champagne reception 10 a.m.)

— Steve Schneider

Two and 1/2 Stars

I feared this documentary about four transgendered students coping with college life was going to be ho-hum. And it was. But it does serve as an introduction to (or update of, depending on your level of sophistication) the issues young transgendered people are coping with these days. Filmmaker Jeremy Simmons took a straight shot (no pun intended) in covering his chosen students: males-to-females Gabbie (University of Colorado at Boulder) and Raci (California State University, Los Angeles) and females-to-males Lucas (Smith College) and T.J. (University of Michigan). The students are all new to the "transitioning" stage, living openly for the first time as members of their adopted genders.

Simmons spreads his camera time equally among the young adults, checking in with each one at several points during the school year. Blond Gabbie is a socially naive free spirit who is open about her biology and grateful for her rich parents, who eventually fund a $15,000 operation to turn her penis into a vagina. Raci is a deaf, straight-A Latin hottie on a scholarship; she's conflicted by the attention she receives from men, even as she considers dancing topless to make money. Lucas hails from Oklahoma and has a loving mother who is coping the best she can – just like her offspring, who admits to being like a kid in a candy store now that he's enrolled at a girls' school. T.J. is Armenian and in graduate school. He hasn't been completely open with his family, and dreads an impending return visit to his conservative homeland.

This abbreviated quartet of case histories avoids sensationalism, but Simmons' storytelling is unimaginative and several potentially interesting plot developments go unexplored. While the movie is instructive simply by dint of exposure, entertaining it's not.

(2 p.m. Saturday at Enzian; auction and reception with filmmaker 1 p.m.)

— Lindy T. Shepherd

El Favor
One Star

To call El Favor annoying is like calling the Holocaust a pity. This stale sex farce is sure to be compared to the films of Pedro Almodóvar – or, depending on one's level of pretension, the bedroom comedies of Feydeau or Molière. If you hear anyone utter these names in the lobby, punch him in the head and keep walking. This movie displays none of the wit or insight into human nature exhibited by Almodóvar et al.

El Favor is, instead, a headache-inducing merry-go-round of shrieking, lisping South Americans – corny stock characters all – bumbling and swaggering through an apartment that's decorated in phantasmagorically bright colors. The setup? A lesbian painter wants her turkey-inseminator brother (yeah, you read right) to get her blow-up doll of a girlfriend (Victoria Onetto, comically taut and shiny) pregnant; all the brother wants is to know why his business partner, Mr. Caligari, hasn't shown up to dinner. (Hey, Felipe, check the cabinet!) The bright spots: Mariana Briski's earthy, wistful performance as the brother's girlfriend; light reflecting off any rounded point on Onetto's anatomy. If your tolerance for painfully exaggerated slapstick is as high as your distaste for all logic, subtlety or realism, then by all means, go.

(11 a.m. Sunday at Enzian; auction and reception 10 a.m.)

— Jessica Bryce Young

Strange Fruit
One and 1/2 Stars

The only victory this racially and sexually charged bayou potboiler represents is that gay cinema now has a hackneyed murder mystery of its very own.

We're here! We're trite! Get used to it!

Writer/director Kyle Schickner – a three-time filmmaker, off-Broadway playwright and bisexual activist – deserves credit for attempting to address anti-black racism and anti-gay bias in the same project. In doing so, he advances a convincing message that all of us – black or white, gay or straight – need to look out for each other. But good intentions do not an Oscar win, especially when almost everything else about your film is either inept or painfully strident (sometimes both).

Haphazard plotting and pacing define the story of William Boyals (Kent Faulcon), a gay black lawyer who travels from New York to his native Louisiana to investigate the brutal death of an old schoolmate. The cartoonishly evil local lawmen don't seem particularly bothered by this latest in a string of apparent hate crimes, but that doesn't dissuade William from getting to the bottom of things – largely by flaunting pumped-up good looks that make him irresistible to gay black men, gay white men, straight white women and God knows who else. (You should probably keep your dog away from him, just in case.)

It's a queer fantasy of power and potency, aping the moves of mainstream thrillers but undone by amateurish writing, editing, dubbing and mixing. The acting ranges from competent to swallow-the-scenery bad, and the too-obvious debt to In the Heat of the Night isn't in any way relieved when filmmaker Schickner has his hero intone, "I suggest you call me MISTER Boyals." At least "They call me MISS Thing!" would have had some spunk.

(1:30 p.m. Sunday at Enzian, followed by Q&A with filmmaker; auction and reception 12:30 p.m.)

— Steve Schneider



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