Judge Brett Cullum thinks more streets and addresses should include the word "gay." Just imagine "Gay-dison Avenue," "221b Gay-ker Street," or "1600 Pennsyl-gay-nia Avenue." OK, maybe not.
You are here and queer…now what?
James Sanchez (James Vasquez) is doomed. He's 29, an unemployed actor, slightly overweight, Hispanic, single, and a gay guy living in San Diego. On the surface none of this sounds too alarming, but you have to realize in the GLBT world there are deadly shortcomings in his description. Most gay men think Logan's Run is a documentary, and life ends at 30 unless you are partnered up, skinny, muscular, and successful. James might as well put on a white robe, a hockey mask, and float up to the ceiling to pop like a balloon to imitate the science fiction movie ritual Carousel rather than go on past 30. But the great news is James has support from friends and family. 29th & Gay chronicles a year in the life of a guy who thinks he is not where he should be. Success and love have eluded him as well as professional success, yet somehow James will find a way to soldier on and be fabulous. He'll develop a crush on the seemingly straight coffee boy, discover the ridiculous world of online dating, audition for tons of shows, and even try to make a living dressed as a giant bunny at a studio theme park.
The biggest draw for fans of GLBT cinema will be 29th & Gay avoids being the typical "coming out" story, yet it perpetuates stereotypes many will find disheartening. There's nothing wrong with James, but he's allowing the idea of what he should be halt what he could be. I don't see much of a crisis in not being a typical muscular circuit boy with a stellar acting career, but James is trapped by the idea he has fallen short. It takes him a good year of his life and an hour and a half of our time to be okay with himself. 29th & Gay has smart moments that weave a witty brave magic that only an independent film can, but it also flails to find a story for most of the running time. Watching the film can be frustrating because it has good ideas and intentions, but the low budget and lack of narrative focus begin to weigh down on it heavily. James goes from one silly setup to the next, and 29th & Gay merely seems to follow him without much regard to what it's trying to say or accomplish. It feels much longer than it actually is because there's hardly any tension or drama.
The strongest aspect of 29th and Gay is the cast. The film consists of genuinely funny moments played out by likable characters, even if there's not much to chew on. There are memorable scenes with minor celebrity cameos such as Mike Doyle from Oz, Michael Emerson who is memorable in Lost, and comedic actress Kali Rocha, seen on Grey's Anatomy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Newcomers fill out the lead roles, and they commit to the "no-budget" film with a great deal of zest. It's no surprise the director is actress Carrie Preston (My Best Friend's Wedding) who is often noted for playing memorable small roles in big projects. She has provided us with a chance to see her friend James Vasquez riff on his semi-autobiographical script. The acting beats are fine, even when the story doesn't provide much support.
TLA Releasing provides a nice disc for this gay film festival favorite. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is solid enough, even if the film itself was shot on the cheap. The whole thing looks like documentary footage, but perhaps that was supposed to lend it a simple charm. The stereo audio track makes the dialogue clear and clean. Special features include outtakes, extended scenes, bloopers, and a pretty funny onset moment with an actress who does palm reading. All of these are extremely short, and there's nothing to provide insight into the project. Seems strange they didn't include anything that allowed the director or cast to speak, since this was such a personal project. The whole DVD is as simple as the story, but TLA deserves props for getting this one out there in distribution. I appreciate their efforts to deliver smaller GLBT titles to an audience that otherwise may not know where to find them.
This one's a silly rambling tale that doesn't say much in the final analysis. There are some possibly offensive stereotypes including the idea that 30 is devastating and a Hispanic father figure who pronounces "you" as "chew." Yet, for the most part, 29th & Gay is a lot like its lead character—lovably silly and sort of charming even if it's aimless. The cast saves this one, and it's worth tracking down simply for the giggles they provide. If you're looking for a GLBT movie without much more than a handful of light in the loafers moments, then this one is worth a look. I do appreciate the film doesn't tell a coming out story, or rely on sexy eye candy to catch an audience. It is something different, and for that 29th & Gay deserves kudos. It's flawed structurally, but see it for the people. Hopefully, this team will find a new project with a better built narrative next time.
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