Thursday, October 16, 2014

Booksteve Reviews: The Gays

The folks behind the new indie comedy, THE GAYS, are fully aware that not only is this movie never going to turn up at your local multiplex but it will never even make it to IFC or Sundance. So they’re doing something quite brilliant, actually. They’re taking it to the street...or in this case, the “Information Superhighway” that we call the ‘Net.

My blog was one of a number of blogs chosen by Producer Paul Serrano to receive a screener of THE GAYS for review. Seeing as how I have an image as a straight, middle-aged, middle-class male who still reads comic books, I’m not exactly sure why. But I’m glad they did because a) that’s not really all I am and b) I kind of liked it. Oh, it won’t win any awards but it’s entertaining enough for what it is.   

The caveat here is that I’m by no means the target audience for this supremely campy and irreverent (and most definitely NSFW!) spoof of traditional sitcom families. That said, I’ve known several gay men through the years who would undoubtedly elevate this to their Top 10 favorites on first viewing!

If I had to sum it up briefly, I’d say imagine the nice middle-class gay family of Mike Nichols’ THE BIRDCAGE if that film had been directed instead by John Waters at his most subversive.

The first thing one notices about THE GAYS is that it is most definitely not for anyone who is even the least bit homophobic. The pre-credits scene features Chris Tanner in full drag, vaguely channeling Nathan Lane, addressing an unseen male baby and excitedly introducing him to all the proper slang terms for various aspects of homosexual sex. While you don’t see the baby, his toys are all sex toys. In fact, penises are a running theme throughout the movie. It’s all overdone but that's the point and some of the visual gags really are genuinely amusing.

Since the overall stated intent of this indie comedy is to be a flat-out, 100% look at a “fag” sitcom, it’s appropriate that it begins with a sitcom-like theme, a catchy jingle loaded with more penis references than you can shake a...uh...Anyway, it sets up our title family more or less as being like The Addams Family. They’re all together ooky, they know it and they revel in it. “The Gays need not apologize” as the theme song says.

The whole story is told in flashback as one of the two sons meets a new guy in town in a bar and regales him with tales of his upbringing. “My folks actually raised me to be gay,” he says, playing against the traditional stereotype of the parents trying hard to KEEP their kids from “becoming” gay. Actor Mike Russnak's delivery reminds me of Richard Moll on NIGHT COURT. It’s stilted but he’s charismatic enough so that you don’t mind. Due to the explicit nature of all of the scenes, the two adult actors playing the sons play the same roles in all of the flashbacks as well. Once you allow yourself that necessary suspension of disbelief it works, almost on the level of a stage presentation.

We’re next treated to the story of how the young son found out where gay babies come from, an indescribably bizarre idea built upon in a later flashback that qualifies among the freakiest I’ve ever seen in a movie...and honestly, I’ve probably seen freakier scenes in movies than YOU have!

Every single gay cliché, the raunchier the better, is brought up and, in a few cases, actually demonstrated. While THE GAYS is not a porn film, there are, perhaps expectedly, a few phalluses and derrieres on display and a couple of quite explicit scenes (although I’m pretty sure one featured a...uh...rubber substitute).

There is no actual plot as such, just a series of scenes where the new guy in town is told more and more outlandish tales of his drinking buddy’s upbringing in an extreme version of the gay lifestyle—cruising, bathhouses, toilet stalls, and a hundred and one anal jokes (if not more).

The mother character is named “Bob” and it’s noted that Bob hyphenated his maiden name of Paris when he married Mr. Gay. So he’s now “Bob Gay-Paris” or, as he pronounces it, “Bob Gay-Paree!” I LOL’d at that one.

The father character doesn’t really get as much to do but when he does anything, he comes across as very much the Robert Young/Hugh Beaumont type he’s supposed to be, complete with that stern but loving father vibe, albeit seen through the warped lens of the film.

There’s also an amusing ROMPER ROOM sight gag, what may or may not have been an EXORCIST parody bit (or ROSEMARY’S BABY, maybe!) and a Manwich joke that actually merits guffaws from an offscreen laughtrack, something that perhaps might have worked had it been done throughout since this is, after all, supposed to be a sitcom spoof. Since it’s the only instance, it stands out for all the wrong reasons.

The film’s—pardon the expression—climax is a holiday sequence designed to offend just about everyone and anyone. While it succeeds in that it also is the funniest set piece of the picture and features a musical interlude with predictably sacrilegious new lyrics to old carols.

Speaking of music, there’s a nice jazzy riff that comes and goes. Not sure if it was done for this project or canned. It does sound familiar.

Overall, THE GAYS played out to me like a late-night cable version of a mid-level SNL sketch, with the direction and performances about on that level for the most part. And that’s not a bad thing! Director T.S. Slaughter clearly shows talent and some of the photography is actually quite good (in spite of what appears to be a boom shadow evident in one scene).

Frank Holliday and Chris Tanner play the title couple. Both men have been big in the New York City art world for many years now. And that’s no exaggeration. I looked them both up online. According to the film’s publicity, the two had actually been a real couple several decades back and reunited solely for this film when Holliday suggested Tanner for the role.

And it’s a good thing he did. Chris Tanner steals every scene he’s in—which is most of them—at once a perverted but loving mother and at the same time a flamboyant drag queen chewing every bit of scenery and spitting it back out! 

I’m on record as saying that anything that sets out to make itself a cult film never will. Cult films aren’t made. They just occur spontaneously. I might someday soon have to allow for THE GAYS to be an exception. As I wrote above, it wasn’t made for me. It was made for the crowd that knows and cherishes the fact that the gay lifestyle really does come with its own unique quirks and that they aren’t all pretty or even nice. It was made to show that “normal” in today’s society really can take on a whole new meaning depending on whose point of view we approach it from.

THE GAYS is, in the original sense of the word, campy to the nth degree. It is also unrelentingly and unashamedly raunchy. It’s impossible not to pick up on the John Waters vibe throughout and, with Chris Tanner as its anchor, this picture may well be highly spoken of in the same circles someday.

Most of my readers probably wouldn’t want a copy of THE GAYS. I have no doubt many of you might actually be offended by it. Even some of my gay friends would likely be offended by it! I like to think I’m pretty open-minded these days, though, and I do have to say I enjoyed it for the most part. If you like edgy (or over-the-edge) humor, are accepting of the scatological jokes and open-minded enough to try it yourself, you can order it or watch it online here at the link below. Don't worry. It won't turn you gay but it may make you laugh...and who can't use as much laughter as we can get nowadays?

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