There is a long and event­ful his­to­ry of gay-themed films as an impor­tant, well-rep­re­sent­ed sub­set of inde­pen­dent cin­e­ma.  There are a lot of dra­mas about LGBT-speci­fic issues, some roman­tic come­dies with a same-sex twist and a decent amount of doc­u­men­taries.  A rar­er strand of this sub­set is the dark com­e­dy that not only chal­lenges the straight audi­ence but also the more con­ser­v­a­tive mem­bers of the gay com­mu­ni­ty itself.  The Gays is that kind of rare cin­e­mat­ic ani­mal — and it comes after the view­er with both Gays-dvdtrans­gres­sive comedic bar­rels a-blaz­in’.

After a mock-sit­com titles sequence, The Gays estab­lish­es a fram­ing device that it will car­ry on through­out its run­ning time: Kevin (Nicholas Wilder), a young man new to the L.A. gay sin­gles scene gets involved in a chat with a local at the bar.  That local turns out to be Alex Gay (Mike Russnak), a proud and con­fi­dent young man who claims to come from a fam­i­ly com­posed entire­ly of gay men: there’s patri­arch Rod (Frank Holliday), trans­vesite matri­arch Bob (Chris Tanner) and lit­tle broth­er Tommy (Flip Jorgensen).

Gays-02To the Kevin’s mount­ing dis­be­lief, Alex explains how he was bio­log­i­cal­ly con­ceived with­out a uterus, the codes of gay sex and dat­ing his par­ents taught and a vari­ety of oth­er dis­tinct­ly lusty and non-P.C. codes of behav­ior for a young gay man.  As Alex’s tales unfold, there’s a comic bath­house pick-up sce­nar­io, a birth-as–Exorcist-par­o­dy sequence and a glee­ful­ly taboo-trash­ing Christmas sequence.

The Gays doesn’t lack dar­ing in the slight­est: writer/director T.S. Slaughter takes his styl­is­tic cues from John Waters as he eggs his cast on to deliv­er­ing camp per­for­mances in out­ra­geous sequences laced with reams of out­ré dia­logue.  Some of it is tru­ly inspired,  par­tic­u­lar­ly the moment where Alex’s par­ents explain to him the bio­log­i­cal process through which two gay men can con­ceive a child.  The cast dives in with total enthu­si­asm, with Tanner in par­tic­u­lar deliv­er­ing a bom­bas­tic per­for­mance wor­thy of a Waters film.Gays-01

However, The Gays has trou­ble sus­tain­ing the out­ra­geous­ness it works hard to con­jure up.  For starters, the script is more a series of loose­ly con­nect­ed skits rather than a prop­er nar­ra­tive and those skits don’t always hit the mark: the fram­ing device fiz­zles out with­out a pay­off and a scene involv­ing Bob get­ting advice from a fel­low trans­ves­tite wife on how to han­dle an inat­ten­tive hus­band goes nowhere after a lengthy setup.  There’s also a ten­den­cy to repeat gags — a gag where the fam­i­ly sings a filthy, gay sex-themed ver­sion of a well-known song goes on too long both times it appears — and there is also a ran­dom­ness to how the gags are struc­tured.

Gays-03Slaughter’s direc­to­ri­al approach doesn’t real­ly use the visu­al tools of cin­e­ma to sell the gags, instead lean­ing heav­i­ly on the cast’s efforts: even when there is an attempt at styl­iza­tion, like in the Exorcist-sendup scene, the mise-en-scene is a lit­tle too raw to make the gags con­nect.  Similarly, he has tonal issues, with the film hit­ting a sin­gle high note of out­ra­geous­ness and main­tain­ing in through­out rather than find­ing peaks and val­leys to give the audi­ence some vari­a­tion. On a pos­i­tive note, Jeanne Dielman’s edit­ing goes a long ways towards adding a lit­tle kinet­ic zip to the pro­ceed­ings, using a vari­ety of wipes and oth­er tran­si­tions to jazz things up.

Criticisms aside, The Gays is like­ly to find favor with the more dar­ing mem­bers of the LGBT audi­ence and any cult cin­e­ma fan who can appre­ci­ate its go-for-broke sense of audac­i­ty.  Even when it fails to con­nect, The Gays is admirable for its desire to shake things up for the gay indie cin­e­ma world.

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