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Boys on film: the quartet of gay-themed shorts in Boys Life 4 yields one gem and three earnest attempts.

It's raining twinks. Boys Life, that omnibus film series for ageist gay white males with short attention spans, is back. While this fourth installment gallantly concedes that there is life after 25, the concerns of its characters remain more or less the same--romance, coming out, and victimhood.

The latter identity drives "O Beautiful," the longest and most earnest of this typically uneven quartet. Director Alan Brown deploys a split screen to monitor the halting alliance between gay high schooler Brad (Jay Gillespie) and Andy (David Rogers), the knight in tarnished armor who rescues Brad after he is brutally group-raped with a stick. Beneath Andy's goody-two-shoes homophobe exterior--surprise!--is a closet queer who is just two swigs of bourbon away from letting himself be deflowered. The splitscreen technique fails to gloss over the soft-porn fantasy inherent in Brown's premise or the staginess of the writing.

A multiple-screen device is used to jazzier effect in Eric Mueller's perky wish-fulfiller "This Car Up," which charts the mating dance between a tattooed and pierced bike courier (Brent Doyle) and a balding white-collar worker (Michael Booth). Two adjacent screens follow the solitary day-to-day existence of the two would-be lovers, while, on two screens above, images roll slot-machine style to reveal their respective thoughts and fantasies. It's such a potentially witty visual device that one wishes Mueller could have taken it further.

The older guy-younger guy dynamic gets a more conventional reading in Brian Sloan's blithe but inconsequential New York story "Bumping Heads." Thirty-five-year-old Craig (Craig Chester) pines for 24-year-old Gary (Andersen Gabrych), but each of them has trouble defining the line between friendship and romance. It's hard to know who is the bigger fool, heartsick Craig or airhead Gary, who perpetually stares upward as if he's checking for brain leakage.

Dumb-and-dumber disease also rules in program opener "L.T.R.," Phillip J. Bartell's wickedly hilarious double satire of youthful passion and self-absorption in the age of reality-based TV. A documentary-film maker decides to chronicle a long-term gay relationship and gets two pathetically eager volunteers in 21-year-old Michael (Cole Williams, below, right) and his 20-year old boyfriend of two weeks, Riley (pitch-perfect Weston Mueller, below, left). The guys are too stoned and horny to comprehend that they are incompatible, while the filmmaker is too invested in one of his subjects to keep on his side of the camera. When The Best of Boys Life is compiled, "L.T.R." should have a place of honor.

Stuart is film critic and senior film writer at Newsday.
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Author:Stuart, Jan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Jul 22, 2003
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