Trick

on July 23, 1999 by Ray Greene
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   "Trick," a sort of "It Happened One Night" based on the idea of coitus interruptus, was perhaps the most representative gay title at this year's fest. Like Tommy O'Haver's similarly structured (but somewhat superior) 1998 effort "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss," "Trick" tells the comedic story of a young, sweet-tempered gay male (Christian Campbell, playing a character with the allegorical/ironic name Gabriel) looking for love in the big city.
   A major crush on a musclebound go-go boy (John Paul Pitoc) develops during Gabriel's uncharacteristic trip to a local cruise joint, and the two men spend an entire night trying to find someplace--anyplace--to have their mutually agreed upon one night stand. Intrusions, mostly from the straight world in the form of a beastly hetero roommate and Gabriel's ditzy high school sweetheart Katherine (a wildly overacting Tori Spelling), keep them from consummating their mutual lust even as cumulative misadventures bring them close to one another's hearts.
   What's remarkable about a film like "Trick" is how unremarkable it would be if Gabriel were a typical romantic comedy "straight" and his go-go boy was a garden-variety female stripper. Grungy, low-budget photography fights both the romance and the comedy; calling the plot predictable is a charity; and though director Jim Fall does an excellent job with his two main actors, many of the supporting players barely rise above the level of amateurish.
   Still, the proliferation of old-fashioned date movies within the gay moviegoing community indicates just how mainstream this particular commercial underground has become. A film like "Trick" symbolizes the triumph gay filmmakers have wrought, where depicting gay rites of courtship as simple, human, normal and lifesize becomes not an act of radical cinema but a borderline cliche. Where an irate tantrum like Gregg Araki's "The Living End" typified the sense of persecution and neglect many gays labored under at the end of the AIDS-ravaged '80s, "Trick" chronicles a community with better health care, concrete causes for social optimism and a far less outraged and marginalized sense of its place in American life.
   In such a more normalized atmosphere, it becomes easier to recognize that a film like "Trick" is what might be called a radical mediocrity, in that it speaks for a disenfranchised audience in a perhaps too eager-to-please voice. The carnality of Gabriel's relationship with his "pick-up" (who is, after all, an erotic barroom dancer) is soft-pedalled in "Trick's" overwhelming desire not to alienate segments of the audience who might frown upon a more unvarnished portrait of the urban gay singles scene. Starring Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc and Tori Spelling. Directed by Jim Fall. Written by Jason Schaefer. Produced by Eric d'Arbeloff, Jim Fall and Ross Katz. Comedy. A Fine Line release. Rated R for strong language and sexual content. Running time: 90 min
Tags: Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc and Tori Spelling. Directed by Jim Fall. Written by Jason Schaefer. Produced by Eric d'Arbeloff, Jim Fall and Ross Katz. Comedy. A Fine Line release
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