Halfway through “Lie Down With Dogs,” filmmaker Wally White, who constantly addresses the camera, notes that the film will probably be labeled “indulgent.””This isn’t ‘Longtime Companion.’ My job as a filmmaker is not to be boring,” he says. Certainly “Dogs” is no “Longtime Companion,” but in his eagerness to please, White has come up with an amateurish, slapdash pic that is, frankly, pretty boring. Miramax will have a tough time selling this one, even to the gay crowd, with almost no crossover potential evident though a useful video career is indicated.
Pic is simply a “things we did last summer” item, with the avuncular White, who has made a handful of short films before this, his first feature, toplined as Tommie, a brash, rather naive New Yorker who heads for Provincetown aiming to have vacation fun. His philosophy is, “Be gay, let the guilt go.”
Once he arrives in the Cape Cod resort he has problems finding accommodations and a summer job, with his various efforts at obtaining work as a “houseboy” usually ending in frustration. He has no problems finding lovers, though, and enjoys a number of sexual encounters during the film. But his dream boy, Ben (Darren Dryden), throws him over after a one-nighter, leaving him bereft. Tommie heads for home in a disconsolate state but reckons he’ll probably do it all again next year — hopefully not in a sequel.
At the outset, Tommie tells the camera that, though he knows many will want to see heavy sexual activity, the film won’t deliver on that level; the only male genitalia on view is, literally, animated. The numerous love scenes are energetic but extremely coy.
This is one of those films that was probably more fun to make than it is to watch. The onscreen good times simply aren’t conveyed to the audience. White suffuses the film with optimism (“The ’90s are really kicking in; we’re over the ’80s”) and AIDS is only fleetingly mentioned. Yet the insistent emphasis on fun and enjoyment has a hollow ring to it that the filmmaker seems not to have intended.
It’s a pity that White couldn’t have come up with a bit more narrative content; the film is pretty much confined to a series of sexual encounters between Tommie and various men. Pic has the feel of one of those tedious home movies that give a lot of pleasure to the participants but which are to be avoided at all costs by everyone else.
White delivers an eager, amiable screen persona, but hardly anyone else in the cast registers. Cinematographer George Mitas has a fondness for odd angles, and the blowup to 35mm is on the murky side. Obviously produced on the slenderest of budgets, the film unfortunately looks tatty, though the opening credits, printed on the boxer shorts of a group of well-built young men, get things off to a deceptively promising start.