Originally conceived as a project for old Hollywood hand Herbert Ross (THE TURNING POINT), who died in 2001, and with Billy Crudup originally in the lead, this polemical drama about the gay son of a homophobic politician died in preproduction and was reborn in low-budget form with UNZIPPED (1995) director Douglas Keeve at the helm. Keeve, in turn, departed...read more
Originally conceived as a project for old Hollywood hand Herbert Ross (THE TURNING POINT), who died in 2001, and with Billy Crudup originally in the lead, this polemical drama about the gay son of a homophobic politician died in preproduction and was reborn in low-budget form with UNZIPPED (1995) director Douglas Keeve at the helm. Keeve, in turn, departed shortly after the start of principle photography, and the film's editor, Zak Tucker, stepped up to complete it. Henry Kray (Matt Newton), the only child of Southern senator Jack Kray (Michael Lerner), variously known as "Mr. Family Values" and "The Nazi from North Carolina," wants no part of his father's current political campaign, but Senator Kray is hell-bent on using his handsome, All-American son to reinforce his image as a family man and bring in the much-needed youth vote. In fact, he's planned a rally at Henry's school, Barken College. What he doesn't know — or chooses not to acknowledge, given such pointed admonitions to Henry as, "You need to find a girl and get your priorities straight" — is that Henry is gay. Senator Kray recruits ambitious young campus Republican Skip Franklin (Ian Reed Kesler) to keep an eye on Henry, but Henry still manages to have a one-night fling with the worst possible partner — gay activist Anthony (Jack Noseworthy), who despises Senator Kray and can hardly believe the opportunity he's been handed to publicly embarrass his nemesis. Awkwardly structured as a series of flashbacks in which Henry tells his story to a reporter in the wake of the all-important election, the film touches on a number of hot-button issues, including homophobia, the ethics of outing, and the intersection of public and private lives, but it suffers from an excess of subplots — notably the one involving Anthony's HIV-positive best friend, Izzie (Valerie Geffner). The film's strident tone also serves to undermine its generally above-average performances. Lerner is utterly convincing as a petty despot who sees his family as an extension of his publicity team, and Karen Allen is exceptionally good as Senator Kray's browbeaten wife, Eunice, an aging belle who is too smart not to know her husband is a petty sadist hooked on the dirtiest aspects of politicking but too genteel to fight back. Unfortunately, Newton is the weak link in the cast, and his limitations make it hard to work up a lot of sympathy for Henry, who comes off as a self-centered drip cursed with a horrible father but unwilling to surrender the comforts of wealth to escape his influence.