|Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss
BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS is a lightweight yet charming semi-
autobiographical film that attempts to marry a Douglas Sirk melodrama (before Todd
Haynes revisited that genre with FAR FROM HEAVEN) with a Rock Hudson-Doris Day
comedy (prior to Peyton Reed's so-so DOWN WITH LOVE) -- with a gay twist. The movie,
directed by Tommy O'Haver, focuses on a gay photographer named Billy (a pre-
WILL & GRACE Sean Hayes, actually billed as Sean P. Hayes) and his infatuation with
hunky musician-turned model Gabriel (Brad Rowe). If one accepts the odd mixture and just
lets it flow, BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS turns out to be a pleasant experience.
Billy has come up with the clever idea of create a series of black-and-white photographs
that recreate memorable romantic moments from classic films (i.e., the beach scene in
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY). His twist, of course, is that he's uses drag queens in the
women's parts. As this movie opens, he is need of a blandly handsome male model
to portray the actors. While having coffee with his female roommate George (a tart
Meredith Scott Lynn), he meets and immediately becomes infatuated with Gabriel. Billy
is warned by all his friends not to waste his energy on this "straight" boy, but the
photographer is undaunted. A chance encounter at a party leads Billy to ask Gabriel
to model for him. Also in attendance at the party is Billy's current boyfriend Fernando
(who coos "you're so special" to Billy while munching on his ear) and Fernando's lover.
Billy asks Gabriel to pretend to be his lover and the genial waiter/musician acquiesces.
Much of the film then is devoted to Billy's unrequited lust for Gabriel (who is having
long-distance girlfriend problems). One of the best scenes in the film has a drunk Gabriel
spending the night at Billy's apartment. O'Haver paces this scene to milk it for all its
sexual tension. Further complicating matters is a well-known fashion photographer (an
incisive cameo by Paul Bartel) who offers Gabriel an opportunity to model for a national
campaign. Eventually the major characters arrive at a party on Catalina Island where
things settle themselves out — not always as expected.
O'Haver's script has a few laughs but his directorial pacing overreaches sometimes.
A running gag of the audience witnessing Billy's dreams, which are clearly inspired by old
Hollywood movies is clever but overdone. Once or twice is fine, but by the third time, it began
to wear. Obviously, O'Haver is talented and the idea of telling a gay love story matter-of-factly
should be applauded. Like Brian Sloan's I THINK I DO, BILLY'S HOLLYWOOD
SCREEN KISS attempts to enliven the moribund genre of screwball comedy. Unfortunately,
both of these films suffered from weak screenplays. What made the romantic comedies of the
1930s and 40s so terrific was witty dialogue, something few contemporary writers can manage.
Sean Hayes makes a fine impression as the puppyish Billy while Brad Rowe is adequate
as Gabriel. Rowe is quite attractive but that is really all he's given to do. The rest of the cast
carries out their roles gamely; it was especially gratifying to see Richard Ganoung back
on screen. (For those who don't remember, he was the lead in Bill Sherwood's now classic
gay-themed indie PARTING GLANCES in 1986.)
On the whole, BILLY'S' HOLLYWOOD SCREEN KISS is a pleasing diversion.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.