Based on the novel by Matthew Rettenmund, Q. Allan Brocka's surprisingly charming not-quite-romantic comedy balances its tale of relationship misadventures among the young and totally hot with some sharp insights into the way age, race, sex, body image, education and the tangled relationship between lust and commerce shape the lives of handsome, 21st-century gay men.
Seattle-based X (Derek Magyar), the film's coy narrator, is a highly sought-after escort who's got his head on straight, so to speak: He manages his client list carefully, invests his money wisely and always keeps sex and sex-business separate. He's separated them so successfully that he hasn't had sex with anyone other than clients since the youthful experience with an older cousin that opened his eyes to his sexuality. Yes, X confesses, voice dripping with irony, he's saving himself for someone he loves. Though X could easily afford his fabulous apartment without roommates, he shares it with newly out Andrew (Darryl Stephens) and barely legal twink Joey (Jonathon Trent) in the interests of keeping the IRS from wondering exactly how much money he makes and how. X has a huge, unrequited crush on Andrew, and Joey has a huge, unrequited crush on X, which makes home a pretty volatile place. But the match to the tinder is X's relationship with a new client, wealthy, aging Gregory Talbot (Patrick Bauchau). Gregory is exactly the kind of john X likes least: The one who wants to talk first. In fact, for a long time all Gregory wants to do is talk, mesmerizing X with the story of his 50-year love affair with the late Renaldo, and teasing out X's confidences in the process. X is forced to examine his own assumptions about love and commitment, which precipitates a firestorm on the home front. X and Andrew play an elaborate game of "go away closer," Joey sulks and acts out especially after the other two start acting like overprotective daddies and everything comes to a head at the emotionally fraught wedding of Andrew's ex-fiance, Jill (Peyton Hinson).
To be sure, there are soapy melodramatics galore and the entire cast could segue into a gay porn film without putting in one extra hour at the gym. But Brocka preserves Rettenmund's sharp observations about the best and worst aspects of gay culture four decades post-Stonewall. Brocka isn't a particularly subtle or nuanced filmmaker, but give credit where it's due: BOY CULTURE is shrewder than you'd think and not half as dumb as it looks. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh