Thursday, June 11, 2009

The fox and the hound

The hunted chase back with closet-cleaning documentary

Posted on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 4:00 AM

*****
Outrage
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Rated: NOT RATED
Cast: Barney Frank, Larry Kramer, Tony Kushner, David Rothenberg, Kirby Dick
Director: Kirby Dick
WorkNameSort: Outrage
Our Rating: 5.00

There is a mournfulness to the proceedings that take place in Outrage, the new documentary by Kirby Dick, who so deftly took on the geriatric MPAA in 2006's This Film Is Not Yet Rated. It's a solemnity that zips past the communal tear-shedding of Milk and transcends the neo-realist depression of something like TransGeneration. Instead, the tone is one of head-shaking consternation, a sense of a generational air ball that most closely resembles Peter Gilbert's civil rights doc With All Deliberate Speed. This is a portrait of how modern politics is still getting it wrong when it comes to gay rights, made worse by the fact that many of the puppet masters behind anti-gay legislation are homosexual themselves.

The righteous indignation Dick brings to his countless interviews with out (or outed) politicians, lobbyists and activists from all levels of government comes at a particularly welcome time, considering the recent California Supreme Court decision to uphold the passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. There's a juicy veracity to be savored in the film's laundry list of finger-wagging targets, from closeted figures like Republican Terry Dolan, who led Reagan's right-wing values march and died of AIDS complications, all the way up to the Bush era's re-election committee heads, who used anti-gay sentiment to unite the Republican party (Ken Mehlman, who they claim is gay, and Daniel Gurley, who admits it). It's not about outing gay politicians for the sake of it. It's about exposing hypocrisy within the anti-gay movement and ending the docile nature of gay activism in the wake of terrifying legislation.

But no figure in Outrage is more vilified than Florida's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, seen here as the Michael Corleone of the gay community. The film gains thrilling momentum when it builds up to the most recent touchstone of the gay rights movement ' last year's successful initiatives to ban gay marriage in California, Florida and Arizona ' and portrays the commonly rumored-to-be homosexual Crist, who proposed to his girlfriend months before the elections, as a particularly stinging opponent. We feel the deep disappointment from November's elections and then watch as Crist walks down the aisle with his beautiful bride to a score that recalls Nino Rota. In voice-over, former Democratic Gov. Jim McGreevey intones, 'The road to hell is paved with good intentions.â?� With his ever-tanned, white-toothed, smug support of Amendment 2 and his unquestioning support of Florida's ban on gay adoption ' along with Mississippi, the only other state to do so ' Crist is the perfect villain for a film like Outrage.

There is hope to be found in Outrage. The stories of McGreevey, Democratic Rep. Barney Frank and former Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe's tortured coming out and subsequent embrace by friends and colleagues are uplifting to watch. If politicians can be as open, honest and influential as Frank and Kolbe, then maybe self-loathing horror stories like those of former Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery, former New York Mayor Ed Koch and California's Rep. David Dreier can become a thing of the past. As the documentary shows, the terror of living in the closet only leads to self-defeating backlash, as seen in the appallingly anti-gay voting records of McCrery and Dreier. As Kirk Fordham, the openly gay chief of staff to disgraced former Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley, says, 'When you try to compartmentalize â?¦ it has very deadly consequences.â?�

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