DVD Review - Kept Boy

George Bamber's adaptation of Robert Rodi's novel is labeled a comedy. Yet, for the most part, this movie doesn't feel like a comedy. It feels mostly serious. At one point, there is a pool party where comedic actors like Mark Cirillo, Kevin Grant Spencer and Scott Atkinson appear and deliver a funny one-liner, only to never be seen again in the movie. Some of them even make jokes about the gay community, which could have warranted further exploration, but we never see those guys again. It's a shame because particularly Cirillo and Spencer could have added more doses of humor. Both those guys are hilarious, but it's not as if there weren't humorous situations in this movie, but Bamber's direction is such that he doesn't go for the laughs, which is odd because Bamber's previous movie The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green (2006) went for the laughs, and went for the laughs hard in almost every scene.

Otherwise, this adaptation has much in common with Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra, which was itself an adaptation of Scott Thurson's 1988 book. First of all, one of the actors here, Thure Riefenstein, had a small role in Behind the Candelabra. Secondly, this movie is also about a May-December romance between two men, wherein the older man is considerably wealthy or highly successful and the younger man is merely a pretty object who is very much dependent.

The issue at hand is how much of this relationship is actually romantic or how much of it is merely a transaction, a business arrangement. In addition to the same-sex couple, there are two heterosexual people in May-December relationships where things are more blatant. One woman clearly pegs herself as like Anna Nicole Smith, a gold digger waiting for her rich but elderly politician to die, so she can inherit his fortune. Another guy in the way he behaves seems like a trophy wife, or in his case a trophy husband.

The movie throws out the idea but never really grapples with the suggestion that there may be no difference between these people and prostitutes, except these would be prostitutes with only one, continuous client. That suggestion though comes so late in the movie that it's thrown out more for shock value than actual contemplation and reckoning. Plus, it's thrown out in a scene that's so clunky and confusing that one isn't sure what to think or feel. All of a sudden, a character is acting like a hypocrite and contradicting himself when he starts condemning the idea of a May-December romance and being aggressively homophobic.

Seemingly that scene is meant to be comedic. Peter, the gay uncle, played by Charles Fathy, starts to fight with his Colombian nephew named Jasper, played by Greg Audino. Peter fights with Jasper essentially for being gay. He also fights with his nephew ostensibly for hooking up with an older guy to help his career, but Peter was about to be that older guy hooking up with a younger man, so the hypocrisy of his actions is an obvious humorous contradiction, resulting in a ridiculous moment that's meant to be threatening but not really. Yet, the way Bamber directs the scene, it's never clear if we're meant to feel actual fear or if we're meant to laugh at Peter. I was simply never sure if the scene was supposed to be serious or silly.

Like many movies of this type though, there is a love triangle. The May-December romance is in danger when another potential "May" enters the picture. Thure Riefenstein stars as Farleigh, the older man in question who is an interior designer and the host of his own reality show. Jon Paul Phillips also stars as Dennis, a former model who never finished school or had any job training and who apparently spent the past decade or so in a lavish and dependent relationship with Farleigh. Dennis is now 30 and he feels jealous and without a net when Farleigh starts grooming a younger designer, the aforementioned Jasper, a more handsome and better educated stud who has more of an interest in Farleigh's work.

Written by David Ozanich, the movie progresses as a pretty good rivalry, mostly on the part of Dennis, where he and Jasper vie for Farleigh's affections. There is an interesting back-and-forth in that regard. By the end, however, Farleigh is removed from the triangle and we're supposed to be left with the idea that there could be something between Dennis and Jasper. Despite being more age-appropriate and both being super sexy, their coupling makes little sense.

Other than Behind the Candelabra, there have been other films that have dealt with "kept boys." Andre Khabbazi recently returned to TV in Days of Our Lives but he played the ultimate kept boy in Dirk Shafer's Circuit (2001). Nick May was less aggressive in Spencer Schilly's The Houseboy (2007). Neither of those movies though reinforced the inter-generational or May-December romance. They all preferred the age-appropriate relationships instead. There is hardly any celebration of old-young romances in cinema. Even among films about heterosexual age-gap romances, most don't end with the older person and younger person living happily ever after. The only two of note that do end that way are Sabrina (1954) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998).

Plenty of gay films have featured sex positive, May-December romances like Milk (2008) and Mulligans (2009). Douglas Langway's BearCity (2010) and Bruce La Bruce's Gerontophilia (2015) are the only films I've seen that do celebrate those age-gap romances. This movie doesn't condemn them, but it certainly doesn't leave us on a note that holds up the age-gap as more desirable. More like it was fun while it lasted!

Not Rated but contains sexual situations and male rear nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 29 mins.

Available now on DVD and VOD.


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