Movie Review - Gerontophilia
Walter Borden co-stars as Melvyn Peabody, an elderly black man who looks like he could be an octogenarian. He's a retired actor who is somewhat sick, so much that he requires round-the-clock, nursing care. He's mostly bedridden when he meets Lake who after an erotic, sponge bath becomes obsessed or seemingly crazy in love. Melvyn is mostly flattered or amused, possibly because he's lonely as his family pays for his care but doesn't visit.
Lake calls his sexual attraction to elderly men a "fetish." He in fact likes to do nude drawings of elderly men. Despite Désirée finding the sketchbook of nude drawings, which includes some nude elderly women, Lake's lustful gazes are focused solely on elderly men.
Writer-director Bruce LaBruce doesn't articulate why. I suppose it makes sense that someone as young as Lake wouldn't perhaps be smart-enough or aware-enough to be able to articulate it himself. Yet, Lake knew enough to call it a fetish and reduces it down to the aesthetic of liking wrinkles. Why it's only male wrinkles is never explored, unless he's simply gay, but why Lake is obsessed with Melvyn in particular is also barely explored. At one point, Lake doesn't even know when Melvyn's birthday is. Désirée suggests that he basically has a Florence Nightingale complex but more isn't done with that. Melvyn's charm and personality are meant to be enough.
All of this is fine, but the true crime of this movie is a couple of moments toward the end. I suppose we're supposed to believe that Melvyn is being mistreated at the nursing facility, and it becomes Lake's duty to liberate Melvyn from it. Yet, it's never made clear if Melvyn is alone in that mistreatment because if so, it's never underlined as to why, or if not, Lake's duty is selfishly narrow.
The other misfire was a moment where Désirée praises Lake for his bravery and it plays Lake's love of Melvyn as if it's some revolutionary act, as if a young man or a young person falling in love or just in lust with an older or even an elderly man is some unique thing. Gerontophilia, which ostensibly is love for an old person, is not a new phenomenon. Yet, this film treats Lake as if he's some trailblazer or as if no one has done it before.
A synonymous term for gerontophilia is the May-December romance, and it's a term that's been around for a while. There have been numerous examples of this in films and in real-life. Most critics point to Harold and Maude (1971), but recently, there was a documentary called Chris & Don: A Love Story (2008). It charted the relationship between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. Isherwood was 48 and Bachardy was 18 when they met and fell in love.
This past year, two gay films were released, Eastern Boys and All Yours. Both dealt with romances between young men and older men. Granted, the age gap wasn't as large as the one between Lake and Melvyn, but there are real-life examples like Calvin Klein and Hugh Hefner where the age-gap between those men and their partners is greater. Some could argue the reason Klein or Hefner have those partners is due to their wealth, but, regardless, this idea of gerontophilia is not new, so to praise Lake for his actions feels ridiculous.
Borden gives a great performance. Lajoie is not a good match acting-wise, but, at least, Borden and LaBruce aren't shy about showing Borden's naked body. His elderly form is fetishized to a degree. Borden does full-frontal nudity as opposed to Lajoie who strips down to underwear but doesn't go all the way like Borden does. There at least is some boldness in that.
Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 23 mins.