Prolific independent filmmaker Todd Verow's semiautobiographical drama chronicles the travails of two Bangor, Maine, high-school seniors whose blossoming affair triggers a series of melodramatic consequences and revelations. Poor, gay, dreamily handsome and artistic, Joe (Brad Hallowell) has been secretly in love with his best friend, football star and compulsive...read more
Prolific independent filmmaker Todd Verow's semiautobiographical drama chronicles the travails of two Bangor, Maine, high-school seniors whose blossoming affair triggers a series of melodramatic consequences and revelations. Poor, gay, dreamily handsome and artistic, Joe (Brad Hallowell) has been secretly in love with his best friend, football star and compulsive shoplifter Andrew (Gregory J. Lucas), since freshman year. Joe lives in a cramped house in scruffy, low-rent Capehart Projects with his alcoholic mother (Jennifer Mallett), the most recent of her no-account boyfriends (who just beat her with the phone for ordering Chinese food from the wrong restaurant), and his flaky, pot-addled sister Theresa (Hilary Mann), who talks constantly about getting out of town but never actually does it. Andrew lives in the oppressive shadow of his older brother, whose death in a freak accident accorded him idol status in the family pantheon; Andrew can't hope to live up to his legend. Restless and desperate to get out of the house, Joe answers local artist Victor's (Charles Ard) newspaper ad for models. Sick, increasingly frail and alone since his lover abandoned him, Victor makes a proposition: Room and board in his rambling, antique-filled home in return for light housekeeping and nonsexual companionship. Once out from under his family, Joe shakes off his torpor and starts looking seriously to the future: He seduces a passing grade out of his repressed French teacher (Nathan Johnson), declares his love for Andrew, and, with Victor's gentle encouragement, applies to the Rhode Island School of Design. But hidden pitfalls stand between Joe and a bright future somewhere, anywhere away from Bangor. Mining his own memories of growing up on the wrong side of Bangor's tracks, Verow packs Joe's summer of self-discovery with lurid dysfunction, including pedophilia, binge drinking, suicide and gay-bashing, without investing any of it with any kind of emotional weight. Even the film's apparent overriding notion that picturesque small cities can be charming playgrounds for moneyed visitors but oppressive cages for disadvantaged locals doesn't really come across, in part because you need to see the heedless vacationers to appreciate how different their view is from that of the locals. Though Verow attended the American Film Institute and has made more than a dozen shorts and features since 1994, his low-budget gay-themed films are characterized by phenomenal indifference to framing, sound quality and performance. If his relentless amateurishness is deliberate, it's self-defeating; if not, it's inexplicable: Most people who do anything for more than a decade get better at it.
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