Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss

First-time director Tommy O'Haver garnered a lot of critical acclaim for this contribution to the "new queer cinema." But he seems more clued in as to its weight than the reviewers. O'Haver rightly calls Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss a Tommy O'Haver "trifle" in the credits and he's on the money in estimating what his film is worth. For sure, the movie has much going for it; it's wholeheartedly enjoyable and packed with the usual dynamic that saturates most gay-themed films: what does one do when that object of desire is heterosexual? In this case O'Haver at least gives his protagonist, Billy, played by Sean P. Hayes, another obsession besides the Brad Pitt-lookalike, prophetically named Gabriel, who is enigmatically acted by Brad Rowe. This is because Billy is a photographer, as addicted to finding the perfect picture as the perfect man. His world is formed by old movies: From Here to Eternity and Imitation of Life are his criteria and the flirty foreplay by which to gauge whether or not a love will have stamina and staying power. Of course, Billy is bound to be disappointed by gay-friendly Gabriel, who is struggling in his own way as much as Billy. Full of the usual mix of second-string players who inhabit the gay milieu (e.g., the best female friend who has man trouble of her own, and the older, secure pal who has secretly held Billy in his sights for some time), O'Haver's film breaks the mold by keeping to a dark note. It resembles a Pedro Almodovar spectacle initially with its saturated look and primary-color palette. But three-fourths through, Billy and his gang walk into the contemporary gay equivalent of a Gidget movie. The shift is surprising and even sometimes funny. Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss has a lot going for it, but it's still just a trifle, and not a milestone in the genre. --Paula Nechak

Genre: Comedy, Romance
Year:
1998
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