Going Down in La La Land

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Some hits and some misses at gay film festival
Film reviews
Thursday, October 13, 2011
By Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Pittsburgh International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival opens Friday at the SouthSide Works Cinema and runs through Oct. 23. Here’s a sampling of movies playing during the first week (reviews are 1 to 4 stars).

‘ Going Down in La La Land

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained
The situations are cliched, the plot somewhat predictable, but Swedish director-actor Casper Andreas has adapted Andy Zeffer‘s 2006 wistfully comic novel with such a light touch that the action moves swiftly, and the characters seem to jump off the screen.

Handsome New Yorker Adam (Matthew Ludwinski) drives to Los Angeles with hopes of becoming a movie star. He finds he can’t get work as an actor, can’t even hold a dead-end day job until a drug-addicted gym bunny — vividly played by Mr. Andreas — gets Adam work in the porn industry.

Adam starts as a secretary, quickly becomes a reluctant star, but he finds his niche when he goes as an “escort” to a handsome TV actor John (Michael Medico) who hires Adam as his assistant when the two begin to have real feelings for each other.

The catch is that rich-and-famous John plays an all-American father figure on his show, and his career might not survive hints of his being gay. Will he dump Adam when the going gets rough or tough it out and acknowledge his sexuality? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the conclusion. Don’t miss the marvelous cameo appearance by Bruce Vilanch as an over-the-top porn film maker.

‘ August’

1 1/2 stars = Bad
Ratings explained
Director Eldar Rapaport has created a dismally pretentious, tedious and trite tale about a drifter named Troy (Murray Bartlett), who returns from Barcelona to rekindle a relationship with his former partner, Jonathan (Daniel Dugan). The problem is that Jonathan is now happily partnered with a handsome Latino, Raul (Adrian Gonzalez), and the results are, to say the least, complicated. They are also predictable.

Not much happens, other than the predictable triangle issues, a threesome and the fickle and feckless Troy going back to Barcelona at the end. Mr. Rapaport unfolds the story very slowly, using techniques that recall among other directors of the past, Alain Resnais (“Last Year in Marienbad“).

The film’s 105 minutes seem at least twice that long, but there is some interesting Middle Eastern-influenced music on the soundtrack to make the lacunae in dialogue go by a bit more easily.

‘ The Sleeping Beauty of East Finchley’

3 stars = Good
Ratings explained
Writer-director Seamus Rea has created a moving tale of a lonely London spinster (Josie Walker) who works at a dead-end job and cares for her aged mother, finding her only refuge in singing along with Jessye Norman tapes in the solitude of her bedroom. One day her mother’s nurse, Trish, a member of the local lesbian choir, hears her singing and realizes that Joan has a beautiful voice and real musicality.

When Trish brings Joan to a rehearsal, Joan resists joining, shouting, “I am not a lesbian.” When she does join, she finds she has further qualms, including a budding yet unspoken attachment to Trish.

Whether the lady is protesting too much or whether she’s found her niche is the province of the remainder of this brief and charming film, acted with conviction by an excellent cast and filmed with an unpretentious simplicity that rings true.

Robert Croan is a Post-Gazette senior editor.

First published on October 13, 2011 at 12:00 am