110 minutes | Rated: R
Opened (NY/LA): Friday, April 30, 1999
Opened (wider): Friday, May 14, 1999
(Various play dates elsewhere)
Directed by Simon Shore
Starring Ben Silverstone, Brad Gorton & Charlotte Brittain
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 15%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
Viewed strictly as an After School Special-y flick for gay teens, you could do worse. Might be a good film for parents and friends trying to adjust. A few British pop-culture references floating around in the background of some scenes might be missed in pan & scan format. If you don't care, no need to hunt for letterbox.
VIDEO RELEASE: 6/8/99
Gay teen struggles with sexuality, secret romance and generic angst in 'Get Real'
Often funny and relentlessly bittersweet, "Get Real" is the story of a barely-closeted English teenager and his clandestine affair with his school's star athlete.
A coming-out parable set inside a rather generic high school angst dramedy, it attempts a balancing act between gay flick and teen flick but ends up coming off more like an unjustly R-rated after school special.
Adapted for the screen by Patrick Wilde from his play "What's Wrong With Angry?," the movie stars mostly unknown Brits in cookie cutter roles which are re-animated by respectable, honest performances that almost make up for the predictability of the story.
Ben Silverstone plays Stevie, a timid, porcelain 16-year-old who is beginning to explore his homosexuality through that unappealing ritual of meeting men in a public park restroom.
One afternoon he finds himself face to face with handsome soccer jock John (Brad Gorton), his school's Big Man On Campus, who apparently has a side to him that he's kept under wraps.
Of course, John bolts from this meeting, claiming a misunderstanding, but when his band of crew-cut sports hoodlums aren't looking he tentatively befriends Stevie, hoping to work out his conflicted sexuality.
Often, rookie feature director Simon Shore seems to rush through stock set pieces to get to scenes like the one in which John first visits Stevie's bedroom. There's laughter: Looking at a wall plastered with pictures of sweaty soccer players, John asks if Stevie is a soccer fan. "No," he replies coyly. And then there's tears: John breaks down on his new friend's shoulder, recounting his first gay encounter like he's writing a Hallmark card, ending with "I'm so scared. Don't leave me!"
This, of course, is followed by a slow draw into their first kiss (as my eyes rolled), and a romance is sparked. But John has a reputation to maintain, and during school he ignores as best he can Stevie's all-too-obvious longing stares.
From here you can probably do the math: Parents must worry ("Oh, God, you don't think it's drugs!" bemoans Stevie's humorously in denial father), best friends must advise (my favorite character was Linda, movie's "fag hag," a catty, sex-mad, pretty-and-plump fashion victim played by Charlotte Brittain), monosyllabic football grunts must threaten and intimidate, and, eventually, someone must find the spirit within them to make a bold, public confession regarding his sexual orientation.
Along the way, "Get Real" certainly has its moments. The clumsy love scenes play true to the inexperience of the characters. The frequent comedy asides are both subtle and sassy (Stevie sprouts wood while slow-dancing with Linda at a school ball, and says "Sorry, I was thinking of someone else."). And Silverstone draws the audience solidly into his corner with a melancholy performance that, gay or straight, is easy to identify with.
But Wilde needed to take another pass at the screenplay before this story was committed to celluloid. The conflicts Stevie faces are featureless, like they've been plucked from the gay sidekick sub-plots of other movies, and many of the circumstances seem canned or depend on the characters doing something careless, like when the jocks catch Stevie and John in a locker room embrace.
The director's character handling is also awkward and inconsistent -- especially in regard to John, whose doubts and contradictions disappear and reappear unconvincingly. Plus, the picture has an inconsistent look -- lush, dramatic photography that's out of place in this simple film and costumes that seem to be recycled from the '80s when the movie takes place in present day.
"Get Real" is something of an inside-the-loop step toward mainstreaming gay cinema, and in its native England it may have succeeded somewhat in that regard (it won a couple audience awards at British festivals). But it's an unpolished effort that shows a lot of room for improvement.
Am I advocating an American remake? I'd hate to think I could be so gauche. But with a little refurbishment, "Get Real" could realize potential that gets buried in this movie by its banality.