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Monday, September 22, 2014

Reeling Review #10: See Blackbird and Gerontophilia at Chicago's LGBT Film Festival



Blackbird and Gerontophilia are very different movies, but each of them introduce us to a talented young actor making his feature film debut - Julian Walker and Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, respectively - and both their performances are worth seeing.

Based on Larry Duplechan's 1986 novel, Blackbird is directed and co-written by Patrik-Ian Polk, the creator of the TV series, Noah's Arc, and two of its stars and producers are Mo'Nique - in her first feature since she won an Oscar for 2009's Precious - and Isaiah Washington, who was fired from ABC's Grey's Anatomy in 2007 for using a homophobic slur. Whatever issues Mr. Washington may have had back then now appear to have been resolved as he delivers a fine performance in Blackbird as an open-minded father of a gay teenager. This emotional and at times amusing drama begins with two high school boys singing together in a church choir, but their religious duet suddenly becomes a hot make-out session in front of everyone. This surprising opening scene certainly got my attention, but we soon learn that it's only an erotic wet dream of one of the boys - Randy, who has a major crush on his hunky and straight classmate Todd. The film mostly centers around Randy's coming out story, and Julian Walker makes us care about this conflicted young man with his marvelous performance and gorgeous singing voice. I also enjoyed Mo'Nique as Randy's mother, Torrey Laamar as Todd, Gary L. Gray as Randy's openly gay friend Efrem, and Kevin Allesee as Marshall, a cute college student with whom Randy becomes acquainted. I've seen many cinematic coming-of-age tales, but Blackbird tells its familiar story exceptionally well with warmth, humor and the occasional wet dream.

For a more unusual coming-of-age story, I would recommend Gerontophilia, which means "a sexual preference for the elderly." Pier-Gabriel Lajoie makes a charming film debut as 18-year-old Lake, who becomes romantically involved with an 81-year-old gay man while working at a nursing home. Directed and co-written by Bruce LaBruce (Hustler White), Gerontophilia has been described as a gay Harold and Maude (the classic 1971 dark comedy starring Ruth Gordon), but I think it takes its provocative subject matter a bit more seriously and presents it far more explicitly. Walter Borden and Katie Boland both give wonderful performances as Mr. Peabody (the object of Lake's affection) and Lake's girlfriend Désirée, but the film belongs to Mr. Lajoie, who perfectly captures Lake's increasing passion for a fetish that many are unable to understand. Both he and Blackbird's Julian Walker are two promising young actors whom we will hopefully see more of in the future.

Blackbird
Show time: 7 pm, Thursday, September 25, at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark). There will be a post-screening Q&A with Patrick-Ian Polk and Gary L. Gray.
Running time: 102 minutes



Gerontophilia
Show time: 9:15 pm, Thursday, September 25, at the Landmark's Century Centre Cinema (2828 N. Clark).
Running time: 82 minutes
Website: gerontophilia-thefilm.com



For a complete schedule of films at Reeling32: The Chicago LGBT International Film Festival (which runs through September 25), go to www.reelingfilmfestival.org. You can purchase tickets online (click here) or in person at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark) Monday - Friday 10:30 am - 6 pm. You can also get the latest festival news by following Reeling on Twitter and Facebook. And click here to read all my Reeling reviews.

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