The Wishmakers Of West Hollywood
If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times: How is it that the gay community is known for its talent, creativity and cutting edge sensibilities, yet when it comes to making movies about the gay experience, the results are usually pretty miserable?
Rather than being ground-breaking and imaginative, most of the time gay movies are just as trite, stereotypical and painful to watch as so much mainstream fare.
The latest example of this is "The Wishmakers of West Hollywood," an indie romantic comedy about three college friends who spend a summer living together in Southern California. Two of the friends are already openly gay, while the third, who professes to be bisexual, is obviously also a big old queen, struggling with his sexuality.
After strolling around various WeHo hotspots, the boys all throw a penny into a fountain and make a wish for what they really want in life. They talk about relationships, the challenges of being gay and the dreams of success they have for themselves without displaying much in the way of any actual talent for anything.
One, a transgendery guy, is a bit of an oddball who changes hairstyles, facial hair, glasses and outfits every two minutes. He goes to work for an equally whacky retired actress, played by Sally Kirkland. No offense to Ms. Kirkland, but for the first ten minutes of her performance I thought it was Mrs. Garrett from "The Facts of Life."
The second, nameless guy in this annoying trio is an unfunny stand-up comic who's desperate to achieve wealth and fame. He figures if he can meet and sleep with David Geffen, his career will be assured. When that fails, he goes to AA so that he can network with other members of the Hollywood elite.
The third character, the one coming to terms with the fact he's WeHo's newest pillow-biter, is an attractive Jewish guy who over-analyzes everything. He goes through a bit of a slutty phase but ends up moaning about it immediately afterwards. He's a yoga teacher trying to become a dancer and engages in countless annoying dance rehearsals with a blonde dancer with whom he has zero chemistry.
After these two suddenly and inexplicably fall in love, blondie breaks the news to yoga boy in an emotional scene that he's HIV positive. Here is the verbatim exchange that follows:
"When did you find out?"
"A year ago, on my 26th birthday."
"Mmm, shitty birthday present."
"Tell me about it."
It was the only truly hilarious part of the movie, but wasn't trying to be.
The writer and director, David Grotell, most likely thinks he's producing a cutting edge gay romantic comedy for a new generation of gay men, but it's as if he's gone down a checklist of gay movie elements of the past decade and then ticked them off to make sure he hasn't forgotten anything. The only thing he missed out on was cowboys fucking.
The intrusive soundtrack of old, melodramatic songs only drives home the point further that this movie isn't fresh and new, but well past its sell-by date.
Grotell makes the fatal error of not having even a single likeable character in the movie. When there's really no one you admire or are rooting for, it's difficult to get very emotionally involved in the story itself. His characters are self-obsessed, one dimensional, and whiny, portrayed by second-rate actors, really not that cute, and not very funny. Hmmm, maybe this film does capture the essence of modern day West Hollywood after all!
Screening at Film Out San Diego