GET REAL

           Queer cinema has made great strides since its hey day
   in the early 1990s and queer sensibility has begun to enter
   into the mainstream. Nevertheless, filmmakers -- especially
   first timers -- tend to stick with the tied and true, namely
   the "coming out" story. Two films which both played at the
   1999 Sundance Film Festival, the British-made
GET REAL
   and the American indie EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, are cases in
   point.

           Both are more or less fictionalized versions of the
   youths of their respective writers (Patrick Wilde and Todd
   Stephens). Wilde originally turned his idea into a play
What's
   Wrong With Angry?
which gradually morphed into GET REAL
   while Stephens' script is more blatantly autobiographical.
   Each film is a gem in its own right and are fine additions to
   the burgeoning "gay" cinema.

           GET REAL comes on the heels of the very well-received
   (although more fanciful)
BEAUTIFUL THING (which its writer,
   Jonathan Harvey, had originally written for the stage as well.)
   At the center of this story is 16-year old Steven Carter
   (winningly played by the charismatic Ben Silverstone). Steven
   isn't a tortured soul; he states he knew from age 12 he was a
   homosexual and that was that. Since he lives in Basingstoke,
   a posh small suburb, and not in London where he might at
   least find some anonymity, Steven has to exercise some
   caution. Still, his favorite after-school activity is
   "cottaging" -- hanging out in the park in front of a public
   toilet (or cottage) where he picks up or is picked up by older
   men. At school, Steven maintains the facade of being
   heterosexual, although he is prone to being shaken down by
   the more powerful jocks. He also has the requisite best friend
   in next-door neighbor Linda (the delightful Charlotte Brittain),
   a heavyset attractive girl who continues to fail her driving
   exam so she can flirt with the instructor. Linda and Steven
   share secrets and both share an attraction to big man on
   campus John Dixon (the strapping Brad Gorton).

           Things get complicated when Steven encounters John
   trolling at the cottage. The latter attempts to brush it off as
   a mistake but Steven sense otherwise. There are secondary
   couplings in Steven's friend Mark who wants to date Wendy,
   the editor of the school magazine, and John's overbearing
   buddy Kevin, a jock with a brutal streak, who has recently
   dumped his girlfriend Jessica (the extraordinary Stacy A. Hart).
   At a school dance, matters begin to foment. Steven and
   Jessica bond, and she mistakes his concern and friendship
   for something more, not noticing that Steven cannot take
   his eyes off John (who is dating an older model). After the
   dance, a drunken John appears at the Carter home and
   confesses his attraction to men -- and to Steven and they
   consummate their relationship.

           Matters are further muddied by John's insistence that
   their relationship be kept confidential. Struggling with his
   desires to be open in his relationship, Jessica's misguided
   affections and pressure from his father about an essay
   contest, Steven writes a heartfelt piece for the school
   magazine called
Get Real, in which he anonymously details
   the difficulty of being a gay teenager living in this tony
   environment, but the article is censored. Everything
   crescendos at the commencement ceremony and the film
   ends on a lovely, very realistic bittersweet note.

           Wilde's script is terrific, although I will concede there
   are some stereotypes and some commonalities to most
   coming out tales -- notably the cold father and the
   understanding mother. Still, what ratchets
GET REAL above
   the norm is the sure-handed direction of Simon Shore (who
   as a side note happens to be heterosexual) and the strong,
   likable performances by the talented cast of newcomers.
   Charlotte Brittain as Linda gives a strong portrayal of a
   zaftig woman who is comfortable in her own skin and her
   take-no-prisoners approach to the part works. Gorton is
   suitably handsome but a bit too green to pull off John's big
   emotional scene. Still, he rises to other occasions as the
   script dictates and ultimately delivers. Stacy A. Hart is
   fabulous. A cross between Kate Winslet and Gillian Anderson,
   she possesses a winning presence and her ability to handle
   the big scenes, particularly when Jessica comes to realize
   that Steven isn't interested in her as a girlfriend, is masterful.
   But the real key to this film is Ben Silverstone. A child
   performer who acted in
THE BROWNING VERSION remake
   and played Humbert Humbert as a young man in Adrian
   Lyne's remake of
LOLITA, he delivers a deft and skillful
   performance: his Steven runs the gamut of emotions and
   to his credit, Silverstone never seems to be "Acting". He is
   tender and sweet and absolutely heartbreaking but he also
   doesn't allow Steven to become a victim. Silverstone, who
   is a college student at Cambridge, is definitely a name to
   remember.

           This performance firmly establishes him as an actor
   to watch in the next century. Though
GET REAL is set in
   a very specific English environment, there is something
   timeless about the story and therein lies its success.


               
Rating:                 A-
               
MPAA Rating:        R
Copyright 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.