‘Revenge,’ ‘Funkytown,’ ‘Weekend;’ Soap, sex, gay intrigue are ‘in’ this fall
Perhaps the best reason not to watch broadcast TV is this: If a show makes it, it’ll come out soon enough on DVD, and you can devour all 22 episodes without distraction, instead of waiting an entire season for it to unfold. That’s what I did with Revenge: The Complete First Season, the juicy ABC hit that was a freshman star this past year.
As with many new drama series, it sets up a seemingly impossible premise: That a young woman (Emily VanCamp) whose father was framed by an evil one-percenter family (the Graysons returns) returns incognito to pick them off one by one without being discovered for who she is. She’s assisted in her revenge by her billionaire gay frenemy Nolan (Gabriel Mann) and even falls in love with (or does she?) the scion of the Graysons (the impossibly beautiful Josh Bowman).
If it sounds like a typical nighttime soap … well, it is and it isn’t. Sure, there are some outrageous leaps of logic (how does no one recognize her?), but it has the insightful omniscient narrative of Desperate Housewives, the how-does-she-get-out-of-that? cliffhangers of Alias and tons of sexy scenes.
VanCamp has always struck me as inauthentic in her soapy shows (Brothers & Sisters, Everwood), but here, her sincerity is matched by a newfound maturity. And with lots of gay content, it’s pretty daring, too.
There are a few extras on the DVD — mostly some commentaries for episodes — but don’t listen to those until you’ve enjoyed the entire season. The only downside on checking this show out now? Season 2 starts on Sept. 30. So, do I tune in then or wait till the DVD comes out next summer?
Sadly, I think I know. I’m hooked. Can’t wait.
In the 2011 indie hit Weekend, you get a sobering look at the gay experience in Britain with an edgy, frank style that crackles with sex appeal; but as a look at gay men in modern life simply trying to connect, it shines with insight.
Working-class Russell (Tom Cullen) meets bearish Glen (Chris New) for a one-night stand, but Glen wants to record his experience with Russell for an art project which sets them off on a journey neither expects.
Writer-director Andrew Haigh authentic, off-handed tone conjures moments of early Gus Van Sant, like My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy: It’s full of textures and naturalistic moments that feel unforced. Cullen and New have great chemistry and an easy way with the rambling dialogue; their body language points to hormones racing, but they are determined not to make this relationship only about sex, even though the sexual energy is undeniable. But this is Haigh’s movie. It’s raw (there’s lots of casual frontal nudity), but it doesn’t seem like those “gay-ghetto movies,” aimed solely at gay audiences to pat themselves on the back for being portrayed on screen. It was one of last year’s best films, ringing truth out of every frame.
Funkytown may be a flawed movie, but it’s also an irresistible one. Set in Montreal in 1976, it hustles through the disco era with a parade of music, drugs, bad threads and more drugs, all pre-AIDS. Its style conjures the best American movies of the era as well, from Goodfellas to Blow to Boogie Nights (It is in French partly — call it Boogie Nuits?).
It’s also head-and-shoulders above that lame stab at the same territory, 54. Plus it has Justin Chatwin doing John Travolta moves on the dancefloor as he explores his repressed gay urges in the seedy streets and back rooms of the age. It’s voyeuristic fun.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 14, 2012.