3 stars, (NR)
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A title like Big Gay Musical suggests the kind of satire South Park employs. Big Gay Musical is deeper than that, sometimes to its disadvantage. For the most part, though, the film, filled with effective performances and clever writing, charms.
The opening scene is nearly comic gold. Gay, venerated columnist, Michael Musto sits in a theater, bored to tears watching a clichéd, heterosexual love story play out. He then storms off, stopping only for a moment to scream out his creative desire: "a BIG... GAY... MUSICAL!" And we're off.
That musical is called Adam and Steve Just the Way God Made 'Em.
It's a humorous chronicle of homosexuals' origins in religious history, but it's also something more - a deft, biting satire of homophobia. It's at once lighthearted and angry, offering up visions of hypocrisy that will make you giggle one minute and get your blood boiling the next. We see Christians putting homosexuals on trial and creating strange, otherworldly camp programs to turn them straight. It's all great stuff. Then, the film goes backstage.
We see that most of the cast members are actually gay. "Adam" is played by a young actor named Paul (Daniel Robinson) and "Steve" is played by Eddie (Joey Dudding). The film delves into their personal lives. Nothing particularly eye-opening here. Eddie's parents are coming to opening night, but he hasn't told them what the show is about or, more importantly, that he is gay. Paul's boyfriend becomes suspicious of him after hearing a rumor that Paul is HIV positive, and they break up. The characters struggle with their identity and so on. It's not that these conflicts aren't compelling, it's just that we've seen them before. The matter-of-fact manner in which the film shows the characters being tested for HIV is unique, though. It's shown as a simple part of their everyday lives, which makes it even more telling.
The film aims to give weight to its satire through revealing this backstage drama. The satire already has enough power on its own, though. So, instead of making the humor of the musical more potent, this lofty material puts a damper on it.
Like the characters, directors Casper Andreas and Fred M. Caruso seem unsure of themselves. As they try to transition between biting satire and sensitive drama, their cinematic teeth get soft and the film struggles to stay balanced.
I'm reluctant in giving the film only three stars, though, for despite its flaws, it is often quite enjoyable - not only in its clever, satirical material, but in the acting. Robinson delivers a charming, tender performance as Paul and Dudding is equally poignant as Eddie.
Big Gay Musical
is not perfect, but it is definitely worthy of kicking off this year's LGBT Film Festival. It screens November 13, 8 p.m., at the newly renovated Tobias Theater in the IMA.