Father Tony

The People I've Slept With

Filed By Father Tony | August 09, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: gay movies, Karin Anna Chueng, people I've slept with, romantic romp, Wilson Cruz

What is it about gay indie films that keeps us coming back despite frequent disappointment? Their style is usually not refined because their budgets are small and their makers are relatively inexperienced with the machinery of filming. Usually, their subject matter is naïve love and first awakenings because their makers are often young and inexperienced as lovers.

thepeopleivesleptwith.jpgWhen I watch an indie film, my expectations are therefore low, but I always hope to find something of promise that will bode well for future viewing. I hope to be arrested by writing that is not studied in a popular style, by unsophisticated but clever cinematography, by surprising directorial perspective, intriguing new music and fresh artistry. I look for performances that are wise beyond the age of the actors delivering them.

The People I've Slept With is a charming romantic romp with some of those elements that I hope for in a gay indie film. It is about a young Asian-American woman named Angela who has a picaresque sex life and a best gay friend named Gabriel. Angela is an unknown/unshown artist who uses crayons and is a sexual conquistadora. Gabriel is sparkly cute guy with a winning smile and a twinkish mind that match like a sweater set on Archie's Betty. Both of them change for the better in the course of the film. If the maturity lessons of the young are of no interest to you, you should skip this movie and rent Autumn Sonata, but I can give you several reasons for seeing The People I've Slept With.

Karin Anna Chueng as Angela overrides a lackluster script and creates someone alluring and believable. The director, Quentin Lee, obviously and justifiably adores her face, holding the camera like the panting head of a worshipful puppy throughout most of the film. A lesser actress would have been merely pouty, but Chueng stands up to this heavy scrutiny. I hope she will be offered better parts in better films but I fear she'll be devoured by TV where she could easily devolve into Valerie Bertinelli.

Radiantly sexy Wilson Cruz as Gabriel overcomes not only the tiresome stock character assigned him but also the film's lethargic pacing. Whenever he speaks, it's as if the slo-mo button is mercifully released and things move along in real time. He also overcomes the fact that the director has little regard for his natural magnetism and gives him just enough camera time to deliver lines that would have been better improvised. Wilson Cruz is an actor comparable to Shelley Winters, always bouncing between sexpot and potential dramatic artist. Shelley finally showed the depth of her talent in A Place in the Sun, and I'm lighting a candle for Wilson Cruz with hope that he'll soon have that same opportunity.

I liked the whodunit structure of the plot and I thoroughly enjoyed the various suspects including Jefferson played by the handsome Archie Kao, and the hilarious Randall Park as "Nice But Boring Guy". In fact, there's not a bad apple in the entire cast of The People I've Slept With, making a bland script all the more objectionable.

There are a few things to quibble with. I didn't need to see a lingering close-up of a used condom being squeezed empty. I didn't need to see two different heads barfing into two different toilets. I didn't need to see repeated ultrasound images. These added up to tedium that should have been cut with better editing. The music was forgettable and appeared to have been tacked on at points when the writer had even less than usual to say. These are elements that mark the insurmountable distance between an Ang Lee and a Quentin Lee, the director of this film.

I enjoyed this movie despite its weaknesses. Like the beautiful Angela's crayon artwork, The People I've Slept With is recommended as lighter fare, full of promise, not annoying and well endowed with the first rate performances of Karin Anna Chueng and Wilson Cruz .

The exclusive theatrical engagement of The People I've Slept With begins August 13, 2010 at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas, 260 West 23rd Street, New York, NY

Visit the official website to view the trailer and the schedule/locations of showings.

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Joe-Allen Doty | August 9, 2010 12:58 PM

Why do people use religious titles for themselves when Jesus himself didn't even approve of them?

Tony is NOT my father and Jesus said in the religious context, "Call no man 'Father'."

All Believers in Jesus are equals in the Sight of the LORD and all men are brothers to believers and all women are sisters, too.

I never call the pastor of a church "Pastor" since that is a position title and not a proper given name. I don't even approve of the ordination title of "Reverend" being used. A reverend is only a reverend in his church denomination or individual church. If fact, I learned in English class that no minister should be addressed as "Reverend."

Dear Joe-Allen,
You'd have to be a long-time reader to know the genesis of the "Father Tony" online persona, but to be brief:

I don't like the title.
I don't need the title.
I don't want the title.

Friends who knew my past started using it as a joke. It didn't hurt me (I was decades away from that life)and I understood their humor. Also, I have not shied away from writing about religion.

In more recent writing assignments and affiliations, I appear as Tony Adams which I much prefer.

I hope this will serve to salve your understandably allergic reaction to the title. I get these comments from time to time and am accustomed to offering the explanation.

Joe-Allen Doty | August 9, 2010 1:06 PM

Ang Lee? The director of "Brokeback Mountain?"

Too bad that the movie missed a lot of the original intent of Annie Proulx's original "Brokeback Mountain" story.

Larry McMurtry admitted to a Time mag. reporter that he padded is script with women characters.

In Ms Proulx's version, Ennis Del Mar NEVER had a girlfriend who was a bar maid. And, Jack Twist never worked for his father-in-law's company while Lureen's father was still living. In fact, Jack told Ennis that her old man hated his guts and even offered him money to get lost.

Unlike the movie, Jack never went to Mexico and what Ennis heard about Mexico was that they killed "queers" there, too. Jack used "Mexico" as a metaphor for having sex with other men when he was working for his wife's company as a buyer for her.

Dear Joe Allen,
Interesting, what you say about the bar maid character in Brokeback. I always had the feeling that she was an insert. She just didn't match the other characters. She didn't seem real. As to whether this counts against the writer or director or not would need more research. Was she their idea or did they bow under pressure from producers?

I have a long standing joke with a filmmaker friend of mine about the typical gay indie film, which goes by the name of WHEAT. I wont rehash the joke here: suffice it to say that it's all about twinks and coming of age and sexual obsession.

I'm starting to wonder if it's even possible for a gay indie film to be about anything else.

As for Brokeback, the screenwriters took a short short story from the New Yorker with virtually no dialogue and no real incident and expanded it out to make it long enough for a feature film. While they did indeed create characters along the way from page to screen, the decisions were appropriate for the characters and the lives they lived in the 1950s, so I'm willing to cut them some slack on that. As much as we might prefer otherwise, you couldnt sustain a film of that emotional rawness for two hours with just two characters romping in the woods and agonizing afterwards for thirty years.

Dear Sean,
Please tell me the joke!
I am also willing to cut the Brokeback team a lot of slack.
Soon, I'll get a screener of Bear City in which I was an extra. I am looking forward to this because for the first time I'll be able to compare the product to what I experienced on the set.

It's not really a joke per se, and I'm sure I've told it here before, but WHEAT is the ultimate gay indie film, dealing with a high school/college/university student with a chiseled, muscular body and who's in love with his coach/English teacher/best friend, a love that remains unrequited/consummated/hinted at for ninety/forty-five/sixty minutes. At some point, the hero, who is always blond, stands shirtless/in his briefs/fully naked in a field of wheat. At the end, he follows his love to San Francisco/learns something or other about life and love/dies a horrible death. Any combination will work.

This post did not go where I'd hoped it would.

That sounds like a one-night-stand gone horribly wrong...........

I've read this three times and I just got it. Ouch.

Dear Bil,
If it had gone where you hoped it would, I'd still be busy adding names to the list....

gregorybrown | August 10, 2010 11:43 AM

Retuning to the original topic: I saw THE PEOPLE I'VE SLEPT WITH a few weeks ago at the Kansas City Gay & Lesbian film festival. I agree that it's far from perfectly polished but it registered in my mind as superior to much of what shows up as indie gay movie making. It's not just for cosmometropolitan audiences. See it when and wherever you can, for a sweet distraction and some fine looking men as well as an entertaining story.

Re: WHEAT. The blond twink in the wheat field should be there at two points in the story--early on, when the green field is swept by the breezes preceding an oncoming storm, then later, just before harvest, with a double rainbow in the sky.