Monday, May 29, 2017

John Butler's HANDSOME DEVIL embraces school ties, rugby, friendship and the GLBT life

A difficult movie not to like because, although it trods a road a number of other films have also taken, it does so with enough spirit and surprise -- together with a refreshing lack of the typical and expected -- HANDSOME DEVIL ensures that its entire experience will be easy to enjoy and embrace. Beginning with a young man telling us of his most embarrassing moment, and ending with this, too -- but with just enough of a twist to put a smile on our faces -- as written and directed by John Butler (shown below, who earlier gave us The Bachelor Weekend), the movie makes for swift, engaging fun.

Taking place in one of those British (or maybe Irish) boys' prep schools ripe for redress and comeuppance, where sports -- specifically rugby -- seems to be all-important, Butler's film has one of its two leading men, a bullied and bottled-dyed redhead named Ned (Fionn O'Shea, at left, below) forced to room with a new boy, Conor (Nicolas Galitzine, below, right), who turns out to be an ace rugby player.

How this relationship works out is not quite what you may expect, nor are the other major relationships in the film, which exist between Ned and his teacher, Mr. Sherry (the always on-target Andrew Scott, shown two photos below) and between Conor and his homophobic-but-hot rugby coach, Pascal (Moe Dunford, shown at left in the penultimate photo below).

There are a number of other subsidiary characters, but it is this quartet that carries the movie: they -- and the interesting plotting and byways down which the story carries us. Handsome Devil is not a "love story" in any usual sense of the word. Instead it's about friendship, sexual preference identity, and finding the strength to stick to your guns.

Granted all this is a tad easier when you're a crack sport star than when you're a bullied nobody. And the movie seems to understand this and take it all into account as it wends its way toward its expected happy ending.

But the way in which the movie reaches that ending is filled with enough growth and change to satisfy, I think, even some naysayers. Little wonder the film has done so well on the gay festival circuit. It's feel-good without the often accompanying baggage of feel-stupid.

From Breaking Glass Pictures and running a just-right 95 minutes, Handsome Devil opens in limited theatrical release this Friday, June 2, in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 and in New York City at the Cinema Village. The film's VOD and DVD release will arrive hot-on-the-heels the following Tuesday, June 6.

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