The big 3-0

Posted on 22 Jan 2009 at 9:53am
By Steve Warren Contributing Film Critic

College buddies brace for mid-life crisis in post-gay NYC


SERO DIVERSITY:: Tony (Lin, left) starts dating an HIV-positive man (Bill Sage).

C+
THE NEW TWENTY
Director: Chris Mason Johnson
Cast: Bill Sage, Terry Serpico and Andrew Wei Lin
Screened by Q Cinema’s at Four Day Weekend Theater, 312 Houston St. in Fort Worth.
Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. $10. Qcinema.org

Thirty is the new 20," says one of a group of 29-year-old friends who have stayed together since college in "The New Twenty," a downbeat independent drama by Chris Mason Johnson.

Maybe they should say, "Twenty-nine is the new 29." Because life as they know it is about to end.

"Thirty’s a milestone, therefore a crisis," adds Ben (Colin Fickes), the bearded, chubby gay man who lives alone.

Andrew’s (Ryan Locke) response to the crisis is to announce his engagement to Julie (Nicole Bilderback). Tony (Andrew Wei Lin), Julie’s brother, is upset that he didn’t hear about it first.

Tony’s gay but his roommate, Felix (Thomas Sadoski), another of the old gang, is straight. Felix has a drug problem which, coupled with his fear of commitment and "existential malaise," makes him the least likely of the group to make it to 30.

Perhaps "growing up" means letting money become more important than sex or drugs. Andrew, a banker, hates his job, in part because he’s less successful at it than Julie. He’s still the alpha male of the group. But one day at the gym where the guys play squash, Andrew meets a male who’s alpha-plus: Louie (Terry Serpico), a venture capitalist. This gives Andrew a chance to start his own business.

Louie’s real role in the story couldn’t be more obvious if he had horns and a red tail. But life goes on as the wedding date nears.

Felix strikes out with a friend of Julie’s but hits it off with another woman.

Tony suffers some disappointments concerning Andrew but meets Robert (Bill Sage, the coach in "Mysterious Skin"), a professor he can get serious about — once he gets over being freaked out by the man’s HIV status. Ben has more luck sharing files online than finding sex, and considers putting his linguistic skills to work for the Army.

Things come to a head the night of Andrew’s bachelor party, when the deck is effectively shuffled for a new, post-30 deal. And the friends get a glimpse of what they’re going to be when they grow up.

While the situations are timeless, they’re given currency by being set in a "post-gay" society where orientation doesn’t matter — except when it does. "The New Twenty" was filmed in New York, where there’s a better pool of acting talent (as opposed to movie star wannabes) to draw from than Los Angeles. The fine ensemble keeps things naturalistic, however melodramatic the plot becomes.

Some of the sets look a bit sparse, but the film overall has a gloss that belies its budget. It doesn’t break any new ground but walks again over the old ground with skill and sensitivity.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 23, 2009.

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