COMING OUT PARTIES

Boys Life is an omnibus consisting of three roughly half-hour works, all by young filmmakers and all concerning the tribulations of the first homosexual experience for middle-class white guys of late-high school/early-college age. They are low-key films of no particular cinematic daring, but this modesty makes all three affecting and occasionally charming.

The first, Brian Sloan's Pool Days, is the most quiet and reticent of the three, and probably the best. Justin (Josh Weinstein) gets a summer job as a lifeguard at a health-club pool. He strikes up an acquaintance with a hunky guy (Nick Poletti) who swims there, and, after a while, it leads to sexual tension between them. That's the whole movie--nothing earth-shattering happens, good or bad, but it's rendered briskly and with humor, and it has an authentic feel to it. On the whole, it's a good exercise in short-story form.

The atmosphere of the second film is a bit more swoony, but the story isn't terribly different. A Friend of Dorothy is about a young, gay NYU student (played by writer/director Raoul O'Connell) who has, along with a fondness for Barbra Streisand records and a generalized desire for love and sex, a heavy crush on his dorm roomie, who may or may not be gay. O'Connell's direction displays real skill and cleverness, and the lighthearted note on which he closes the film is pleasing.

The third and most political selection, Robert Lee King's The Disco Years, is yet another comic/nostalgic tour of the '70s; indeed, it's pointedly imitative of the TV series The Wonder Years, in which a '70s kid's suburban adventures were wryly narrated by his adult self. The difference is that this time, the protagonist is a gay high school kid, Tom (Matt Nolan), struggling over whether to be open about his sexuality.

King packs quite a lot of plot into his half-hour, and, overall, the film works well, on about the same easygoing level as a Wonder Years episode. Dennis Christopher gives a touching small performance as Tom's gay English teacher, who is being harassed by some of Tom's friends. And there's an imaginatively poignant moment in which the troubled Tom hunts for information in the card catalogue of a library--he looks, first, under "homosexual," then "gay," and finally "faggot," and in each case finds no listing. What's really remarkable about the three films in Boys Life is their similarity to one another, not just in content but also in the simple, efficient, conventional style in which they're made. These directors could all have a future at Touchstone Pictures. Indeed, it wouldn't be hard to believe that all three films were the work of the same person.

 
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