Saturday, October 1, 2016

Alden Peters' COMING OUT: Leaving the closet, even as you're filming it for posterity

When TrustMovies first heard that COMING OUT, the new GLBT documentary from first-time filmmaker Alden Peters, was all about his "coming out" process as a gay man, and that he had simultaneously filmed the whole thing, my mind and heart sank a bit. It is all too easy to imagine how stupid and sappy something like this could be. The opportunities for narcissism, not to mention the difficulty of finding "truth" as you are filming everyone around you -- while remaining, of course, the center of attention -- seemed awfully obvious to me. And I couldn't help wondering why it didn't also seem so to the filmmaker. Well, maybe he's just very young.

Turns out he is very young -- but also rather charming and bright. All of the above, and lots more, seems to have occurred to Mr. Peters (shown above and below) before, during and probably long after his shoot -- in which, yes, he does come out to family, friends and now to the world at large. The experience of seeing/hearing this happen and what it means to Peters and those around him -- for this viewer, anyway -- proved a surprisingly enjoyable, thoughtful, funny and occasionally moving one.

The person to whom Alden initially spills the beans is his older brother, who claims not to have had a clue that his younger bro was gay, even though as a child Alden dressed up like one of the Spice Girls and filmed the whole thing! Other family members at least seem to have considered this possibility. His mom (above, left) asks him one humdinger of a question on camera, while Dad (below, left, and on poster, top, right), who seems a typically gruff and non-verbal example of American manhood, turns out to be pretty damn fine about it all.

The filmed conversation with his group of best friends is particularly buoyant and telling, opening up the subject of how Alden himself feels about being gay. This proves to be a rather dark grab bag of ideas and feelings,  A good-looking kid who, from certain angles, could pass for a very young Tom Cruise, Peters has already experienced gay sex a number of times, but has kept this, along with so much else, closeted. As he has discovered so far, there just doesn't seem to be a good role model for him to follow. Or maybe it's is just that there are so many different role models to choose from that he find this confusing. Many gays, young and old, may find themselves identifying with these feelings.

As the movie lengthens (it's lasts only 70 minutes), we meet other gays who have or are in the process of coming-out -- the beautiful transgender girl Janet Mock, a young black kid named Eric who comes out online to his dad, along with a sociologist, a journalist and a psychologist, all of whom add some thoughtful insight to the proceedings. Finally, though, we're left with Alden, who, while he is now "out," is still faced with a lot more living -- and decision-making -- to do. If we thought this documentary was going to be merely a silly, sappy endeavor, it turns out to be -- in the words of our favorite current TV character, My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a show you really must see, if you haven't already: it's streamable via Netflix) -- "a lot more nuanced than that."

Coming Out, from Wolfe Video, arrives on DVD and VOD this coming Tuesday, October 4 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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