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February 8, 2013

Evenings Out

Big Apple cheesecake

Filmmaker’s third feature tosses five friends into the mosh pit of Pride in New York

Five college friends reunite for Pride weekend in New York City in Patrik-Ian Polk’s third feature film, The Skinny, out now on DVD from Breaking Glass Films.

Magnus (Jussie Smollett) is living the high life in New York, residing in a gorgeous high-rise condo, with his boyfriend of five months Ryan (Dustin Ross) in tow. Visiting him for Pride are four of his friends from college in a de facto one-year reunion: overly sexually active Kyle (Anthony Burrell), virginal naďf Sebastian (Blake Young-Fountain), insecure dreamboat Joey (Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman) and British lesbian bombshell Langston (Shanika Warren-Markland), who is doing her graduate studies at Yale.

While Polk had episode after episode to get the story going in his television series Noah’s Arc, he’s only got about 100 minutes for The Skinny, so things start going pretty quickly. First, the friends discover a shocking secret about Ryan, which leads to an explosive encounter between him and Magnus.

Then, at the bar, Langston and Joey fall in love with a go-go dancer and the bartender, respectively. Of course, over-thinking everything (as they are wont to do), neither can make a move on the objects of their desire. Will they ever get their tickets punched, or will their Gotham weekend end with them like an unready chicken egg--unlaid?

That is not a problem for Kyle, who cannot ask a passerby to take the group’s photo without hooking up. He is a serious he-slut. For someone who is not the lead character, he spends more time getting laid in the movie than all the other characters combined.

Unfortunately, that does not bode well for Sebastian, the doe-eyed innocent who has been in love with Kyle for years. He has carefully planned this weekend, believing that Kyle is waiting for him to make the first move. He will swoop, and the more experienced man will pluck his delicate flower.

Seriously, they actually talk about Sebastian’s desire to have Kyle pluck his flower. Which, amusingly, leads to Joey teaching him about proper “down-there” hygiene.

Unfortunately, while Magnus is at home nursing a broken heart, Sebastian gets a little too drunk at the club with Kyle, who wanders off and loses track of his young charge. Were this Gregg Araki’s The Doom Generation, the film would end with Sebastian’s murder. However, Polk is thankfully a little nicer to his characters, so while something terrible does happen, it’s neither the end of Sebastian’s world, nor of the film.

Along the way, we also have Wilson Cruz and Darryl Stephens show up as a doctor and an HIV counselor. One can never complain about getting to see either of these two men onscreen.

Polk again brings out a film full of natural performances by incredibly attractive performers. Glancing at a cast photo, one would not be blamed for mistaking it for porn--they are all so very attractive. However, while Polk never shies away from portraying the full scope of human sexuality, he tends to leave it at the “Ooh, look at the pretty body parts” variety, unlike, say, Bruce LaBruce.

If there is any failing to the film, it is that he also, at times, seems to be very message-oriented. One gets the feeling one has tuned in to a slightly smutty after-school special at a few points, like when Joey is explaining how to use an enema, or the doctor is talking about post-exposure prophylaxis. For segments of the audience, this is very valuable information, but it is presented almost too clearly, as if, at any moment, a shooting star trailing a rainbow will cross the screen, leaving behind the tagline, “The more you know.”

Certainly, though, that is a minor quibble from a jaded old curmudgeon. Better to focus on things like nibbling on Blake Young-Fountain’s tiny ears (for the guys) or burying one’s face in Shanika Warren-Markland’s bosom (for the gals).




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