The Fluffer


          In show biz parlance, a "fluffer" is the opening act for the headliner
  whose job it is to warm up the audience. If they are really good, a fluffer
  may graduate to full-fledged stardom. Then, there is another, more
  "intimate," position -- a man or woman who prepares the male star of
  a porn film for what is euphemistically called "the money shot." He or
  she may use whatever means necessary to "arouse" the interest of the
  star. For some, it's probably a thankless job; others may enjoy it for
  vicarious reasons.

          Drawing on his experiences as a maker of adult male films, director
  Wash West (a.k.a. Wash Westmoreland) teamed with indie director
  Richard Glatzer (
GRIEF) to collaborate on THE FLUFFER, a comedy-drama
  that aspires to tell the "true" story of what it is like to work on the sets
  of porn movies. West and Glatzer take swipes at Paul Thomas Anderson's
   BOOGIE NIGHTS, a mainstream feature that attempted to do the same
  thing. Because Anderson wasn't on the inside of the porn business (and
  his film dealt with heterosexual aspects of the multimillion dollar
  industry) and West is, one might think that
THE FLUFFER will be
  chockablock full of gritty details. Instead, it's an at times fascinating,
  at times frustrating look at the behind the scenes shenanigans of gay
  porn.

          The film centers on Sean McGinnis (Michael Cunio), a recent
  transplant to Los Angeles who harbors a desire to break into motion
  picture production as a cameraman. In order to bone up on the proper
  style, he goes to a video store and rents
CITIZEN KANE, except
  someone has switched tapes and he's taken home a gay porn movie
  that's a play on the Welles' title. Before he can shut off the tape, he
  becomes mesmerized by the lead actor -- a hunk of beefcake with the
  nom du porn of Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). West's training as an
  adult filmmaker comes into play in the scenes of the film-within-the-film.
  Although not explicit, they manage to introduce the persona of
  Johnny Rebel, and the manner in which these scenes are shot are
  erotic and sensual. It's no wonder that Johnny Rebel becomes the
  object of obsession for young Sean, who clearly is struggling with his
  own latent homosexuality. After making his way through all of
  Johnny Rebel's videos, the aspiring filmmaker takes matters into his
  own hands. Turning down an assignment for a legitimate independent
  movie, he arrives at the offices of Men of Janus, the porn production
  house, seeking employment.

          Although he has little in the way of real work experience, he
  manages to charm the company's sales manager, Chad Cox (Robert
  Walden who has come a long way from his days as the arrogant reporter
  on TV's
LOU GRANT). Chad has worked his way up through the
  business from porn star to behind-the-scenes mogul and he is just sleazy
  enough to supply drugs to his workers and demand sexual favors in
  return for employment opportunities. (There's an amusing homage to
  
THE GRADUATE in the job interview sequence.) Soon Sean is on set
  with the object of his desire, working as a cameraman. Despite his
  ineptitude, he manages to capture a perfect money shot which ensures
  him a permanent spot at the company. As in
BOOGIE NIGHTS, the
  porn workers form something of a dysfunctional family. Chad is the
  all-powerful father, director Sam (Richard Riehle) is the exasperated
  uncle, Silver (Adina Porter) is the smart older sister (she's actually a
  black lesbian whose job is secretary, but who really manages to be the
  peacekeeper and the glue that keeps the place operating smoothly) and
  Johnny is (true to his name) the rebellious older brother.

          It isn't long before Sean is recruited to act as "fluffer" for Johnny
  and while the moment is literally a dream come true for the naif, it is
  also an eye-opening experience. He soon learns that Johnny, like many
  stars in the adult male industry, is "gay for pay," that is, he's a
  heterosexual male who can earn more money by appearing in gay-themed
  movies. Johnny (whose real name is Mike) has a sexy girlfriend named
  Julie (Roxanne Day) who dances at a strip club as 'Babylon.' While
  Johnny/Mike and Babylon/Julie have been together for about three years,
  they fight constantly, most particularly over Johnny's increasing use of
  drugs. Indeed, Johnny's habit eventually will be his undoing, which is
  where the film begins to unravel because of its tonal shift.

          Up until the last third or so, the movie hums along on its own quirky
  charms. The scenes on the porn set have an authentic air and the
  character's indiscriminate drug use (the on-set stash of Viagra is
  constantly being raided), when West and Glatzer drop a murder and
  flight to Mexico into the story, things get a bit murky. The scenes feel
  tacked on, as if they were made up on the spot as a way of ending
  
THE FLUFFER rather than as organic to the screenplay. These aren't
  exactly the only ones in the film that have that feel; there's a scene
  with Sean at a bar where he meets an older gentlemen (Mickey Cottrell)
  that fall flat. It's unfortunate, because there are enough real-life
  models of gay porn stars who came to bad ends that West could
  have fictionalized instead of the awkward ending he concocted.

          The acting in the film veers wildly from amateurish to adequate
  to fine. Cunio projects the right mix of wide-eyed innocence and
  obsession. Sean throws away a perfectly good relationship with Brian
  (Josh Holland) because he cannot get past his desires for Johnny.
  Roxanne Day does a nice job as Julie, a women torn by love and a
  desire for a more stable home. Robert Walden is appropriately slimy
  as Chad and Tim Bagley is creepily effective as Alan Dieser, the owner
  of Men of Janus.

          THE FLUFFER starts off well but over the course of the film, it
  peaks early and then takes a wrong turn that strands the story and
  the actors.



                          Rating:                     C+
                          MPAA Rating:           NONE
                          Running time:           94 min.
© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.