“THE EMPTY HOURS”— A May to December Romance

the empty hours poster better

“The Empty Hours” (“Las horas muertas”)

A May to December Romance

Amos Lassen

In Veracruz Mexico, Sebastian (Kristyan Ferrer), 17, takes over his uncle’s rent by the hour motel. There he meets Miranda (Adriana Paz), a regular customer who comes there to meets a lover who is never on time and keeps her waiting. Since they both have time to waste, they start getting to know each other and some kind of game of seduction begins between them.

May-December romances are not new to film but this is an interesting take on an old subject. Sebastian gets a good deal taking care of the motel and it is the kind of job that lets the mind wander for long periods since there does not seem to be a lot of business. In fact, the motel setting certainly encourages coming-of-age reverie. The nearby gorgeous beaches nearby and the hot illicit sex that goes on in the motel is great thought fodder for a young man. Like most motels of its kind, the uncle’s establishment is a place primarily for quick rounds of hungry impromptu lovemaking, and, of course, as we might expect, Sebastián eventually evolves from spectator to participant.

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However Sebastián’s character deviates from the pattern we are used to in these kinds of relationships. Sebastian is not naïve idealist that we might expect of a hero of a summer romance. Instead, he comes across as a young man who’s seen some things, and he isn’t afraid to wield his authority at the motel. He is not intimidated by Miranda who is quite beautiful and often comes to the motel to have sex with a married man that she has been seeing. He is clever enough to control his feelings and he does not emphasize his own sexual inexperience.

Miranda’s lover is a realtor who comes to town to sell condos but because of the economy they are not moving, Miranda and Sebastian are both visitors to a way station being set apart from the lives they have been given. At least, that’s the subtext that’s meant to encourage us to believe the couple’s brief union, but we don’t need it because the chemistry between Ferrer and Paz is intensely alive and erotic. We feel as if we’re watching uncomfortably privileged encounters between them, and there’s a brief gesture that ranks as one of the sexiest moments in recent movies. Sebastián moves in to kiss Miranda for the first time, and she initially reacts ambiguously, only to direct her eyes, with the slightest tilt, toward the curtain that will make them invisible behind it.

empty hours2

Director Aaron Fernández’s plaintive, observational approach with his aesthetic openness is endearing. The majority of the film is seen in long and medium shots. The film allows us to take in the entire setting and also to see the little issues of motel life. His patience also informs the eventual sex story with an oddly real dimension of grand casualness: We understand the deviation from normalcy for Sebastian and Miranda and we see that sex does not always fit our expectations and other rules. We see sex as a practice and something of an art.

When the subject matter of a film has to do with a teenage boy spending tile at a rent-by-the-hour motel, expectations certainly meet reality. When the two main characters aren’t together, the film has little to offer to advance the plot and reverts to quiet introspection against the backdrop of beachside Veracruz, Mexico. The film is sparse almost to a fault yet it comes to us so delicately that it rarely feels dull. It is a slow meditation on complicated human relations.

Sebastian is bored and lonely; the guests avoid any interaction, and even the seemingly friendly coconut seller across the street is an amateur hustler. Sebastian is desperate for human interaction and latches onto Miranda who can be left waiting for hours, if not stood up, by her married boyfriend, Miranda strikes up friendly conversations with Sebastian and the two seem to recognize their mutual loneliness and develop a decidedly ambiguous relationship bordering on the sexual but often rooted in feelings of regret and inadequacy.

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Fernández quickly strikes a balance between portraying Sebastian’s boredom and the derelict charm of his run-down motel. Sebastian’s loneliness is always on display and we feel it. This is a film about characters and emptiness. It is not perfect but it does show us how skillful the director is.

“THE TRUE STORY OF PALESTINE” (“Etz o Palestina”)— A Satiric Look at Israel

the true story of palestine

“The True Story of Palestine” (“Etz o Palestina”)

A Satiric Look at Israel

Amos Lassen

With all that is going on right now in Israel, it might be a good time to relax and enjoy a few laughs while watching the history of the country. This is a satirical look at the rebirth of Israel made from old newsreels before the state came to be. In the early 1920s and 30s, Israel’s first film studio, Carmel Films, turned out newsreels every week. Carmel captured treasured images of Meir Dizengoff riding his horse, Hanna Meron selling shoelaces, the debut of the Habima Theater, David Ben Gurion’s hairdos, and many other golden moments. In 1962, pioneer filmmaker Nathan Axelrod – with a script by Haim Hefer and the voice of my friend Haim Topol (“Fiddler on the Roof”), collected the newsreels and presented the historical footage as “The True Story of Palestine”, a funny and joyful look at the early days of the Jewish state.

Nathan Axelrod, Uri Zohar, and Yoel Zilberg re-edited newsreel footage, which had been originally shot by Carmel Films and created this satirical, look at the early years of the Jewish state.

Here is the story of Israel from a decidedly humorous perspective. Sometimes we just need to laugh at ourselves.

OUTFEST 2014 Award Winners

OUTFEST 2014 AWARD WINNERS

(Those with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com)

Audience Awards

Documentary Short
“Families Are Forever,” Directed by Vivian Kleiman

Dramatic Short
“Alone With People,” Directed by Drew Van Steenbergen

Documentary Feature
“Back on Board: Greg Louganis,” Directed by Cheryl Furjanic*

Dramatic Feature
“The Way He Looks,” Directed by Daniel Ribeiro*

First US Dramatic Feature
“Drunktown’s Finest,”  Directed by Sydney Freeland*

Grand Jury Awards

Documentary Feature Special Recognition 
“Dior and I,” Directed by Frédéric Tcheng

Documentary Feature Winner
“The Circle,” Directed by Stefan Haupt*

Actor in a U.S. Dramatic Feature
Mark Strano in “Tiger Orange”*

Actress in a U.S. Dramatic Feature
Gaby Hoffmann in “Lyle”

Screenwriting in a U.S. Dramatic Feature
Desiree Akhavan for “Appropriate Behavior”

U.S. Dramatic Feature Film
“Drunktown’s Finest,” Directed by Sydney Freeland*

International Dramatic Feature Special Recognition
“Lilting,” Directed by Hong Khaou*

International Dramatic Feature
“Something Must Break,” Directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark*

Documentary Short Film
“Flying Solo: A Transgender Widow Fights Discrimination,” Directed by Leslie Von Pless

Experimental Short Film
“Get Ripped,” Directed by Leonardo Van Dijl

Dramatic Short Film
“Jellyfish,” Directed by Rosie Haber

Special Programming Awards

Emerging Talent
Robert Hawk for “Home From the Gym”

Freedom
“Bad Hair,” Directed by Mariana Rondón

Artistic Achievement
Abdellah Taïa for “Salvation Army”*

Special Programming Awards Statements

Emerging Talent
For drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of queer cinema —developed over a lifetime of attending festivals and helping other directors fulfill their creative ambitions — to craft a powerful and sexy debut short film of his own at the age of 76, the Special Programming Award for Emerging Talent goes to Robert Hawk for HOME FROM THE GYM.

Freedom
For depicting the corrosive effects of familial homophobia on a child determined to defy cultural expectations the Special Programming Award for Freedom goes to writer-director Mariana Rondón for BAD HAIR.

Artistic Achievement
For crafting an autobiographical portrayal of sexual awakening in the Muslim world that is both gorgeous and unflinching in its honesty, the Special Programming Award for Artistic Achievement goes to writer-director Abdellah Taïa for SALVATION ARMY.*

Short Film Grand Jury Statements

Documentary Short 
In a remarkable story of strength, perseverance, and dignity about a vanguard spirit, and for capturing an extraordinary history that will inspire generations of people, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Documentary Short Film goes to FLYING SOLO: A TRANSGENDER WIDOW FIGHTS DISCRIMINATION by Leslie Von Pless.

Experimental Short
With stunning and stark visuals, this film explores the complexity of masculine obsessions with power and sexuality. The 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Experimental Short Film goes to GET RIPPED by Leonardo Van Dijl.
Dramatic Short

For an engaging and unique film that encapsulates the simplicity, beauty, and amorphous nature of its namesake with maturity and nuanced sensitivity, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Dramatic Short Film goes to JELLYFISH by Rosie Haber.

Documentary Grand Jury Statements

Special Recognition
The jury honors a film with Special Jury Recognition for excellence in artistic achievement that includes masterful direction, cinematography, editing and composition. Through a compelling cinema verité style, engaging subjects and characters, the jury would like to award a Special Jury Recognition to DIOR AND I, directed by Frédéric Tcheng.

Documentary Feature
The Jury’s selection is a film that redefines the form of documentary filmmaking. With seamless integration of fiction and nonfiction, it elevates the craft of storytelling to new emotional heights. For its innovative techniques in overcoming the unique challenges of telling the little known history of a courageous pre-WWII underground gay movement, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Documentary Feature Film goes to THE CIRCLE (DER KREIS) directed by Stefan Haupt.*

International Grand Jury Statements

Special Recognition

The Jury honors a film with special recognition for strong art direction complemented by even stronger performances that showcase the director’s cinematic maturity. The 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for International Feature Film would like to award Special Jury Recognition to LILTING, directed by Hong Khaou.*

International Dramatic Feature
The Jury’s selection is a film that is both fearless and original. Through the lead character’s gripping performance, we experience a love story that is unconventional and also truly universal. The storytelling is enhanced by an impressive sound design and raw cinematography. The 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for International Dramatic Feature Film goes to SOMETHING MUST BREAK, directed by Ester Martin Bergsmark.*

US Grand Jury Statements

Actress
For taking us on a supernatural journey, all the while remaining sincere and sympathetic, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actress in a US Dramatic Feature Film goes to Gaby Hoffmann for LYLE.

Actor 
For his honest portrayal of a brother conflicted with responsibility to family and career, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a US Dramatic Feature Film goes to Mark Strano for TIGER ORANGE.*

Screenwriting
For her commitment to honesty and vulnerability with hilarious and poignant results, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for Screenwriting in a US Dramatic Feature Film goes to Desiree Akhavan for APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR.

Feature Film
For taking us into a dynamic world full of rich and flawed characters with unexpected journeys, the 2014 Outfest Grand Jury Award for US Dramatic Feature Film goes to DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST directed by Sydney Freeland.*

 

“OUT TO KILL”— Solving the Crime

out to kill poster

“Out to Kill”

Solving the Crime?

Amos Lassen

out to kill1

I find it extremely appropriate that my 8000th review is for the new Rob Williams’s film “Out to Kill”. Williams’s very first full length feature “Long Term Relationship” was one of the first films I reviewed some seven years ago and his films are entertaining and have something to say and we see that once again in “Out to Kill”. This is a difficult film to review because it is a mystery. I have to be very careful not to give anything away and it would probably be easier to say that this is a great movie and you should see it and leave it at that. However, that is an opinion and not a review. So I am going to try to write something that will entice you to get a copy or to at least see “Out to Kill”.

out to kill2

Basically the story goes like this: Jin Noble (Scott Sell), a private investigator moves into what seems to be a very gay loft complex in Tampa, Florida and he is barely there before he lands his first case which seems to have happened right outside his door. Justin Jaymes (Tom Goss), one of his new neighbors is found dead in the swimming pool which sits in the middle of the apartment complex. Up to this point, Jim has been getting to know his neighbors and even found himself attracted to Justin, who meets an untimely end before anything gets started. Jim is then hired by some of the neighbors to find out what happened and if Justin was murdered and if so, by whom. As he investigates, he learns that there are many secrets among the residents of the complex and that many would do what they had to do in order that the secrets remain secrets.

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This is the seventh and most mature film from Williams who always manages to find good-looking men to be in his films. While some of the characters might not appeal to everyone, I am sure that there is someone for every taste. It was good to see that Rob Moretti is having a good year film wise. He also made a film that was one of the first I reviewed and he always lets me know when something new is coming out. I don’t know how he does it but he seems to be getting younger and better looking in every film.

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I love a movie that plays with the mind and keeps me guessing. I was pretty sure that I knew where the film was going and while it did not to where I thought it would, there were interesting detours along the wide.

This is a classy production. Everything about it is classy and, of course, the men are hunky. Once again Rob Williams proves to be an important force in gay cinema. He is constantly good yet full of surprises and new ideas. I understand that the film will be available in the fall on DVD but you can catch it until then on the festival circuit.

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“DEVO The Men Who Make The Music / Butch Devo & The Sundance Gig” —On DVD and Digital Formats on August 12— Classic DEVO live in 1978-79, philosophy, and more!

 devo

“DEVO The Men Who Make The Music / Butch Devo & The Sundance Gig” 

On DVD and Digital Formats on August 12—Classic DEVO live in 1978-79, philosophy, and more!

Amos Lassen

 “The Men Who Make the Music” combines concert footage from DEVO’s 1978 tour with music videos and interstitials featuring a vague story about DEVO’s rocky relationship with “Big Entertainment.” 

As for the bonus program, Butch Devo and the Sundance Gig, Jerry Casale says, “In January of ’96, we closed Sundance Film Festival. We wore 20s style prison suits and dished out classic DEVO songs to an unsuspecting audience of Hollywood elite.”

Tracks:

  • Jocko Homo (Music video, taken from “The Truth About De-evolution”)
  • General Boy 1
  • Wiggly World (Live)
  • General Boy 2
  • The Day My Baby Gave Me A Surprise (Music video)
  • Roll Out The Barrel (AKA “Rod Rooter’s Big Reamer”)
  • Praying Hands (live)
  • General Boy 3
  • Uncontrollable Urge (Live)
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (Music video)
  • General Boy 4
  • Jocko Homo (Live, partial performance)
  • Secret Agent Man (Music video, take from “The Truth About De-evolution”)
  • Smart Patrol / Mr. DNA (Live)
  • Come Back Jonee (Music Video)
  • General Boy 5
  • Red Eye (Live)

Devo Corporate Anthem

  • Original VHS goes for hundreds of dollars
  • Originally shelved by Time Life due to concerns about its anti-music industry content
  • Bonus film: 1996 Sundance Film Festival live show featuring early DEVO songs

Some of the earliest  professionally shot footage of DEVO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rqw01xt2Y0

“A Map of the Harbor Islands” by J.G.Hayes—- Two South Boston Friends

map of the harbor islands

Hayes, J.G. “ A Map of the Harbor Islands”, Harrington Park Press ,2006.

Two South Boston Friends

Amos Lassen

Danny O’Connor and “Golden Boy” Petey Harding have been friends since they were children and this book follows their friendship throughput their lives., from their childhoods through their adult lives. Petey seems to have it all—he is smart , charismatic and good-looking. But an accident on the baseball filed changed everything. When he awoke from a coma, he was a different person. He was not the same boy that Danny knew and loved. When Peter confesses that he is gay, it sends Danny on an odyssey that he had never dreamt of.

Before adolescence, Petey was the “perfect” boy. He helped stray dogs and injured birds. He was his mother’s favorite, a golden boy with straight As and he was talented athletically. Danny tells us how a baseball smashed into Petey’s head and sent him into a long coma. Only when Danny visited him did Petey regain consciousness. Afterwards Petey had a pronounced stammer and definitely peculiar ways. His golden status seems to have left him he neglects school, escapes into reveries and experiences spiritual enlightenment by bonding with a life energy he calls Birdy. When he reached adulthood, there were jobs waiting for him and Danny went into the military. This was all capped with Petey talking about his homosexuality. Here is a wonderful story of friendship and love, of discovering and accepting who you are, of finding your place in life. Author J.G. Hayes brings us two amazing characters in Danny and Petey—two friends who are very different but connected by a friendship that has it share of bumps in the road but stays true.

After the accident Petey is pitied by the majority of people near his home but that does not stop him from looking at life in a new way and opening his heart to what really matters. He takes his best friend with him on a journey that will enrich Danny and help him find the courage to be himself. Petey is an unforgettable character, larger than life. Petey touched me in a way that few others have been able to do and I doubt that I will ever forget him.

Here are two friends coming of age and divided by life and circumstances and an accident that changed one of them, but  they always remained tied by love. The language is beautiful, and the story spins a complex tale of sexuality and male friendship and their complexities. This is an emotional read or as some would say a two box of tissue experience. Even with the limits that the accident forced on him, Petey is something of a gay “everyman”. He experiences loss when he thought Danny deserted him as he explored life and himself but he was mistaken by that. Neither guy ever stopped loving the other.

Danny just did not realize how much Petey meant to him until later when both of them are men in their thirties. Writer Hayes gives wonderful descriptions on nature and the wonder and magic of two city boys experiencing it. The story of Petey and Danny is not a love story in the conventional way that others are. It is a story about love in all of its shapes, forms and aspects. I have a hard time classifying this as a gay book because it is really about two characters who just happen to be gay and sexuality is not an issue here—love is. Hayes was able to find the words to write about the unconventional kind of love that Petey and Danny shared. This book transcends genre and it is an example of a book that while is classified as speaks to all of us regardless of gender and sexuality. We see the innocence and cynicism of youth at the same time that we see and feel joy and sorrow, despair and redemption.

 Now that I am living in Boston, I reread the book over the weekend and found so much more than I did before I moved here. Hayes captures the people of South Boston through his excellent dialogue and he deals with the important issues of love, hurt, redemption, acceptance, self-awareness, friendship and life as the characters struggle with them.

As I read, I realized that I lost all track of time and really had a hard time forcing myself to stop to eat or to even do something as mundane as fix a cup of coffee.

Let me say a few words about the author’s prose style. Each word seems to be specifically chosen and he captures the beauty of the Irish American  brogue that we hear in South Boston. His descriptions are so real that we feel we see them in front of us. We have had so many coming-of-age and coming-out stories that to find one that is special is not so easy. Finding this one is cause for celebration. It is as if we are on a cruise and manhood is our destination and the voyage there is through the rough waters of adolescence as they (and we) hope to find harbor of the heart.

“GRIGRIS”— Dashed Dreams

gris gris

“Grigris”

Dashed Dreams

Amos Lassen

Grigris is 25 years old and he dreams of becoming a dancer. The fact that one of his legs is paralyzed does not deter him but is a challenge for him. However, all of his dreams go down the drain when his uncle becomes critically ill and in order to help save him, Grigris goes to work for gas traffickers.

Grigris had the misfortune of being born in Chad in the capital city of N’Djamena yet somehow he managed to always have a smile on his face. this slender 25-year-old almost always has a smile on his face. He is able to escape his bitter world by dancing at one of the local nightclubs and he is graceful and confident. When he dances his friends chant his name and nothing seems to affect his sweet disposition.

Grigris film still

The film is directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s  and it is about how a man with such a sunny disposition can survive with his spirit intact and this is a question seemingly without an answer., and for most of this casually engaging drama, that answer remains uncertain. This isn’t a particularly gripping tale of crime and love, but it works on a character level. You like Grigris more than you love the movie.

Grigris (Souleymane Démé) learns that his beloved stepfather is gravely sick and money is needed to pay for a lengthy stay in the hospital. But Grigris is poor and no one can help him—except, that is, for Moussa (Cyril Gueï), a local criminal who will pay him handsomely to help smuggle precious petrol in the dead of night. Grigris knows that he shouldn’t, but he really has no alternative.  As an underdog hero he quickly realizes a way to bring in more money from these illegal activities by cutting out his employers. We can almost tell from this point who it will end. But there is something about the style of the film that keeps us watching.

Démé as Grigis is filled with charisma. He is tough from the street and his broad smile seems to cover any problems behind it. He  has terrific chemistry with another newbie, Anaïs Monory, who plays a village beauty named Mimi who has had to become a prostitute in order to earn a living. do questionable things herself to earn a living. The film is a meaningful but schematic study of African poverty, something we do not see much of in the movies.

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Once Grigris cheats on his criminal cohorts, the film becomes something of a subdued, slow motion chase movie with Grigris hiding out with Mimi in the small, isolated community where she grew up. The film builds to the inevitable confrontation and showdown between Grigris and the between Grigris and the bad guys, but director Haroun has a surprise up his sleeve and he shows us that there are ways to combat crime even if it means to take the law into our own hands.

This is a story of hope against despair in the director’s native African country of Chad. Deme, appears in every shot of the film and his talent for dance gives us some wonderful scenes which are in contrast to the sadness of Chad. Chad itself gets such little exposure outside of global charity appeals and once-in-a-while reportage so it is interesting to see this film just to see the country. But there is so much more. Aside from getting a sense of life in the city, its humor and its the color, its inherent problems and dangers, we get a really good story.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctnV7TS2ZzY

“Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings” by Juana Maria Rodriguez— Sexual Politics

sexual futures

Rodriguez, Juana Maria. “Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings”,  (Sexual Cultures), NYU Press. 2014.

Sexual Politics

Amos Lassen

In her book “Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings”, author Juana Maria Rodriguez gives us a new way of looking at sexual politics and proposes that we examine them with reference to ”the interstices between radical queer desires and the urgency of transforming public policy, between utopian longings and everyday failures”. She uses the stereotype considering the ways in which bodily movement is assigned cultural meaning, Juana María Rodríguez takes the stereotypes of “the hyperbolically gestural queer Latina femme body as a starting point from which to discuss how gestures and forms of embodiment inform sexual pleasures and practices in the social realm”.

Her focus is on the sexuality of radicalized queer female subjects, including burlesque border crossings, daddy play, pornography, sodomy laws, and sovereignty claims and in this way to bring forward “alternative sexual practices and machinations that exist outside the sightlines of mainstream cosmopolitan gay male culture”. “Forms of agency continually mediate among these various structures of legibility—the rigid confines of the law and the imaginative possibilities of the performative”. She looks at Puerto Rican activists who work toward self-determination alongside sexual performances on stage, in film including commercial porn, in multi media, in dance and in the bedroom.

 commercial pornography, in multi-media installations, on the dance floor, and in the bedroom. She shows that projections of radicalized sex become part of over mediums such as discourse and the coming together of racial and gendered anxieties and also appears in gestures and utterances of sexual acts, kinship structures, and activist practices.

We see how sex has been deployed in contemporary queer communities in order to radically change sexual politics.

Rodriguez contributes to the study of gender and sexuality by mobilizing the stereotype of the Latina and she is a critic to be reckoned with.

“Straights: Heterosexuality in Post-Closeted Culture” by James Joseph Dean— The Politics of Sexual Identity

straights

Dean, James Joseph. “Straights: Heterosexuality in Post-Closeted Culture”, NYU Press, 2014.

The Politics of Sexual Identity

Amos Lassen

Now this is a title I never thought I would see especially after having had to be in the closet for so long. In 1969 with the Stonewall Riots, American politics of sexual identity were changed. It is impossible not to see that today the later generations of American feel greater acceptance of the gay community. We have seen gays portrayed positively in the media and we have all seen the LGBT community gain legal rights. These changes, great as they are, not solely affecting the gay community; heterosexuals are also in the midst of change as to “how their sexuality plays out in everyday life”. James Joseph Dean in “Straights” shows us that heterosexuals can neither assume the invisibility of gays and lesbians, nor count on the assumption that their own heterosexuality will go unchallenged. We are no longer able to presume that everyone is heterosexual or that compulsory heterosexuality even exists (or even ever existed).

The book is the result of some 60 interviews with straight men and women. It looks at how straight Americans look at their sexuality and gender. It is important to note the role of race in this and whether it plays a role or not. And yes, heterosexuality has a history that Dean presents to us. We read how it was first established and of the differing worlds of males and females; masculinity and femininity and the rise of the meterosexual for men and a more fluid sexuality for women. It is safe to say that there is a new kind of heterosexuality today.

Dean documents the way heterosexuals interact and form relationships with their LGBTQ family members, friends, acquaintances, and coworkers. We know that homophobia still exists in the world today but what we see here is that being gay-friendly or against homophobic expressions is becoming very common among those in the straight world. Sexual expression in America is changing and changing quickly.

Straights underscores the shifting terrain of gender and sexuality in contemporary America. Through detailed, compelling analyses, Dean shows that being straight is a contested and increasingly fluid sexual and social status. This is an indispensable text for a gender and queer studies that aims to pivot beyond a minoritizing identity politics.”-Steven Seidman, author of Beyond the Closet: The Transformation of Gay and Lesbian Life

 ”James Dean’s book illuminates the cusp of lived social change in gender and sexual relations, with homophobic attitudes on the decline and public support for gay rights and families on the rise. Straights shows how, during this ‘post-closet’ historical moment, people of various racial-ethnic groups define, mark, and sometimes contest heterosexual identities, privilege, and heteronormative social relations.”-Michael Messner, author of Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity

“The Actress” by Amy Sohn— A Roman a Clef about a Sexy Secret

the actress

Sohn, Amy. “The Actress: A Novel”, Simon & Schuster (July 1, 2014)

A Roman a Clef about a Sexy Secret

Amos Lassen

Steven Weller is quite the Hollywood leading man and heartthrob. He gave Maddy Freed the break she needed and wanted so badly when he suggested and ultimately gave her the part in his Oscar-worthy film. Her career took off as a result and Steve was soon pursing her romantically.  Maddy was thrilled with her romance with America’s leading bachelor and she knew that the gay rumors that have surrounded him for years have no truth to them.

 When Hollywood heartthrob Steven Weller pulls Maddy Freed out of obscurity for a starring part in his newest, Oscar-worthy film, she feels her career roaring onto the express track. Steven’s professional attention soon turns personal as they are thrown together amid Europe’s Old World charm, and Maddy allows herself to tumble headlong into a fairytale romance with the world’s most eligible bachelor. She knows there’s no truth to the gay rumors that have followed him for years. Evidently Steve seems something in Maddy that he had not found in other women. He tells her that it is because she is such a fine actress and she has the great ability to take on a character that is hard to tell which is the character and which is Maddy. She soon realizes that there is a very big part waiting for her to play. She and Steve are very happy together, so happy, in fact, that she does not see how she can possibly ask him about his past. However, her inner voice and her instincts tell her that something is amiss. We soon realize that the price of ambition is very high and that the greatest performances of all are the ones we do not see in the movies.

I understand that this a roman a clef based on the life of a very successful male movie star who has off and on been the “victim” of gay rumors. We begin with his question— “Does Steven marry Maddy because he desires her, or is she simply being cast in the role of wife so that Steven can continue to play the role of a straight guy”?

 Steven has been played a part for a very long time and he finds it more and more difficult to ascertain the difference between the part and who he  really is. I really did not like the characters of Steven or Maddy— they are self-centered, spoiled and make a lot of money making movies where the pay is higher than the demands. I find it disgusting that society makes people like them to be some kind of royalty.

 The book is a look at Hollywood that we have seen many, many times before. The statement, “Everyone in Hollywood is disingenuous,” spoken by a character in the first chapter sets the tome for the book and is an omen for what is coming. This is the story of one woman and her journey toward learning who she is.

This is the story of the private lives of actors and studio workers and management. We are all aware that the film industry is secretive and not always fair. We see how the movie industry took over Maddy’s life  and we learn why the marriage came to be. Look, we know the story—we have lived through it any number of times but Amy Sohn, the author adds something we do not often see and that is the humanity of her characters.

I understand that the new issue of one of the tabloids is basing their next issue on this book. I think they forgot that this is fiction and while it might seem to be the story of the guy who jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch, it is entirely made up….or is it?