Monday, November 19, 2012

DVD Review - The Men Next Door

Benjamin Lutz (left), Eric Dean (center)
and Michael Nicklin in "The Men Next Door"
Eric Dean (Nine Lives and George's Intervention) stars as Doug, a gay personal trainer and pilates instructor who enjoys cake and red wine, as he prepares to celebrate his 40th birthday. He's slightly depressed because his three friends cancelled on his party, leaving him all on his own. But, Doug isn't the first, lonely gay man on his 40th birthday. After some ominous, opening narration, Harvey thought he might spend his birthday alone too in the prologue to Milk (2008). Happenstance though throws a younger, sexy guy in Harvey's direction. The same occurs for Doug. The younger, sexy guy in this situation is Doug's new neighbor Colton, played by Benjamin Lutz (Bite Marks and The Love Patient).

Colton becomes someone whom Doug wants to continue dating possibly long-term. There's one problem that gets in the way of that. Doug is dating someone else. Doug is already going out with Jacob, another new neighbor, played by Michael Nicklin, who despite the casual talk also has the potential to be something long-term. Now, this premise alone could be enough to fill a feature-length movie, but writer-director Rob Williams has a few more wrinkles in mind that he builds into this plot.

Those wrinkles are literal and figurative. Jacob in fact takes his queue from Oscar-winner Christopher Plummer in Beginners (2011). Jacob is an older man who was married and had children but who is now as a near senior citizen deciding to come out as gay. As Jacob says though, it's not late in life. It's "later in life." Jacob stresses he's not that elderly. Actually, he's only ten years older than Doug.

Jacob is certainly more spry than Plummer's character and doesn't have as many wrinkles. He's also unlike Plummer's character in that he isn't naive or that unaware when it comes to gay culture. He's constantly sweet, open and casual. Perhaps because he gets how gay culture is very much youth-obsessed, Jacob knows that a man his age entering the dating scene needn't be demanding.

It's not as if Colton is demanding, even though he's in fact younger than Doug, ten years younger to be exact. Colton, however, is not a part of that youth and Lady Gaga-obsessed culture either. He's more mature. In a lot of ways, he's very much like Jacob only in a 30-year-old, potential Chippendales' body. Colton and Jacob aren't the same, but they have a lot in common. As such, Doug falls in love with both in equal measure until the only thing separating the two is their age.

Doug is not necessarily content with the status quo, but odds are he could continue dating the two neighbors for years. It becomes apparent that the two neighbors aren't going to allow that. They tolerate it for the moment because they're both sex positive people who love Doug, but odds are they can't continue dating in this almost polyamorous situation, so the two men force Doug to choose.

They probably wouldn't have forced Doug to choose as quickly, if it weren't for one shocking fact. Colton and Jacob aren't just two, random neighbors. They actually have a specific connection. I won't say what it is because if marketing material hasn't already spoiled it, you should let the movie surprise you, but here's a few clues.

Doug isn't as conniving as Maggie Gyllenhaal's character in Happy Endings (2005), but he's essentially in the same position as her. There haven't been too many films, gay or not, that have explored this type of love triangle, certainly not in the way that this one does, which dares not only to make everything out in the open but also acceptable on all three sides. Films like Mildred Pierce (1945) or Fish Tank (2010) deal with similar love triangles with similar age issues but always there's one side that's not open or acceptable.

The movie features Heidi Rhodes who plays Doug's best friend, Evelyn who to me is like a mix of  Rachel Griffiths and Kathy Griffin. Devon Michael Jones plays Doug's twin brother Derek, a character that exists as the audience's proxy and a kind of touchstone. Mark Cirillo (The Seminarian) and Christopher Schram are comic reliefs, giving what could be considered the youth perspective. Two actors from recent, gay horror films Ronnie Kroell (Into the Lion's Den) and David Alanson (Bite Marks) make brief appearances here in two totally divergent roles.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Contains language, sexual content and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 24 mins.
Available December 11 on DVD.

For more information on the director and the making of the movie, see the above blog post or click here.

1 comment:

  1. Avoid this dog at all costs. Bad acting, offensive stereotypes, creepy plot, and no surprises. I wish someone would have warned me.

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