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Case Number 09200: Small Claims Court

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Dorian Blues

TLA Releasing // 2004 // 88 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // May 8th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum longs for a gay movie that doesn't feel like the equivalent of a 1-4-5 chord progression.

The Charge

Sometimes finding yourself is just a matter of checking the closet.

The Case

Dorian (Michael McMillian, Dimples) knows he's gay, but he's having a hard time dealing with it. His football hero brother (Lea Coco, The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell) isn't making it any easier on the scrawny angst ridden teen. To make matters worse, his father (Steven C. Fletcher) is a domineering righteous man who rules the house with an iron fist. He won't let anyone think for themselves, and would hate to find out one of his sons is not what he expects. Dorian Blues chronicles Dorian's coming out,from his first realization to final acceptance in the arms of Manhattan's liberal bohemian scene. And yet his father colors everything Dorian experiences. He's about to discover where you come from can reach you across incredible distances. Until Dorian learns to deal with it, he'll always be fighting the blues.

Oh good Lord, here is yet another coming out movie. If you're a fan of gay cinema, you've seen hundreds of these stories. Seems the favorite topic of queer filmmakers is the process of coming to terms with your homosexuality at the early stages. Think about all the movies where someone realizes they are gay, or has to deal with delivering the news to family or friends. It is a defining moment, but I wish we could get some stories about well-adjusted men above thirty just to shake things up a bit. Yet every now and then, someone makes a very good honest look at the journey out of the closet, and such is the case with TLA's release of Dorian Blues. It traverses familiar territory: a kid coming out in a small town with right wing parents, his struggle with living in the shadow of his athletic brother, futile attempts at dating girls, and moving to a large city where he can finally be as gay as he wants to be. Despite all these by-the-numbers elements, Dorian Blues has a fresh tone along with strong performances to overcome the stereotypes.

What the film does best is juggle broad comedy with heartfelt emotions to make it all feel painfully real. Dorian has a lot of wit, and Michael McMillian shines in the lead role. He's a total smart ass, only cute in a funky way, and completely enchanting. He reminds me of Topher Grace from That '70s Show because of his dry wit and lanky form. The script is whipsmart, and everyone comes off as sweet and real. Dorian Blues is a joy of a film, and certainly one of the best of the "coming out" movies made. Perhaps what makes it so powerful is the film's refusal to make anything easy for the characters. There's no shining light moment where Dorian skips off happily ever after in to a sea of shiny disco balls while a Madonna tune accompanies the welcoming gestures of West Hollywood gym rats. Even after he's gay and out of the closet, life is still a decidedly unfabulous mess. Better still, even the straight people stumble through the same thorny brush Dorian finds himself trapped in. And shockingly enough for a gay film, sexual escapades are clumsy and funny. Dorian Blues never betrays its characters or plot for the obvious. When I studied dance, a choreographer once told me "The key to making a routine interesting is always move in the direction nobody expects." Dorian Blues does exactly that, it undermines your expectations. Tennyson Bardwell allows scenes to linger and head in directions only real life could inform. You'll know what I mean when a stripper does a dead-on singing impersonation of Billie Holiday right before an "MGM moment." The film achieves a natural tone, and a wise voice that rises above its contemporaries.

The DVD presentation is solid, but has a few shortcomings. It has a wash of grain that is prevalent throughout the entire feature. The sound mix is pretty robust for a light comedy, including both a surround and DTS mix. The only extra is a pair of deleted scenes that are amusing but not crucial. There's nothing else offered, and that seems like a shame. TLA deserves props for releasing films like this, but I was surprised they didn't offer more to support this one.

The only flaw is as charming as Dorian Blues comes off, I wish the topic was more daring. We smile at the wit, but the tale is old even before it begins. With a cast this talented, a script this smart, and a director this good, I long for more challenging material. Dorian Blues promises a lot of exciting possibilities for writer and director Tennyson Bardwell. It's a great debut feature, and one he masters easily. He's made a great "coming out" fable and a great movie that covers familiar territory. Dorian Blues is a breath of fresh air in a tired genre, and certainly well worth either a rental or a purchase. It's smart, sassy, and has an undeniable charm. If you're in the mood to watch someone else come out of the closet, it's a great time. I'm getting weary of features that feel like "homosexuality 101," and long for something that goes farther. Let's hope that now that closet door is open we get to see what happens next.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 89

Perp Profile

Studio: TLA Releasing
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Gay

Distinguishing Marks

• Deleted Scenes
• Trailers


• IMDb

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