Tuesday, May 3, 2016

BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING: Joseph Graham's lovely tale of a night of need and longing

"This is one of the best gay movies I've ever seen," my spouse declared, wide-eyed and, I think, hugely surprised by his own reaction, as the end credits of BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING began to roll. TrustMovies agrees with that assessment. Even though he's seen a lot more GLBT films than has his spouse, this new film from writer/director Joseph Graham -- very sexual and very hot, but also thoughtful and moving, utterly specific and absolutely genuine -- looks into the lives of six young men and one older one in late-night Philadelphia and finds a ton of need and longing, as well as a symphony of love, sex and art (the last both visual and verbal).

This is quite an accomplishment and it makes the movie one of the few gay films I've seen in the past several years that rises above its genre to become a movie about gays that I think could reach a much wider audience. This is due to its fine specificity and how it deals with feelings -- of loss and need, of identity and meaning -- with which so many of us struggle.

The struggle in this film is beautifully rendered by its accomplished cast, only one of whom I've seen previously but all of whom I shall remember. And not simply because of their physical beauty, which is on full display, but due more to how they bring their struggle to angry, sad, sometimes amusing, and alternately appealing and appalling life.

The acting here is sometimes almost shockingly naked -- and not simply for lack of clothing. You really feel for these guys. Chief among them is a young man named Brian (a splendid Brian Sheppard, above), still aching from a breakup with his best friend and deepest lover, Dan (Grant Lancaster).  The need in this young man is so strong and ferocious that it takes him to extremes both sexual and emotional.

Likewise the somewhat "kept" boy named Jim (Zach Ryan, above), involved with a famous artist (played by the visual knockout Colman Domingo, below) who seems to care about his "trophy" but also may be using the more-than-compliant young man for mere (but also pretty damned good) sex.

Into this mix arrives Bob (John Lescault, below, right), a wealthy older man who cruises the area in his limo, looking for his own kind of satisfaction. Add to the group a fellow named Chris (David Melissaratos), whom Brian picks up at a local bar, and who is deeply insecure about his sexual orientation, and a sexy, out-of-the-blue guy on a bike (Matthew Rios), with a more than minor interest in our Brian.

The small-time dance these guys engage in -- haltingly or with an indiscriminate push -- and their several connections, meaningful or minor, are so full of life, emotion and truth that by the end of the night, we feel we've experienced something major and surprisingly rich. Mr. Graham knows how to engulf us in both the sensual and the intellectual, and his cast member manages to seem real and genuine at both these tasks, and at each and every moment.  Even the poetry that Brian is finally able to write makes something artful and beautiful out of his longing and need.

From Ariztical Entertainment and running 97 minutes, Beautiful Something opens theatrically in New York City at the Cinema Village and in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema this Friday, May 6, in advance of its digital and cable VOD release on Tuesday, May 17. 

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