A more fantastical tenor might have united so many disjointed narrative and thematic elements; but Donaghy seems content to wing it one scene at a time, with tech contribs (especially the sometimes gimmicky photography) following suit. Perfs are OK given script’s lack of character nuance. “The Story of a Bad Boy” deserves credit for trying to mess with a nearly stale formula, but when compared with similar films, like the current, touchingly straightforward “Edge of 17,” its creative clutter just seems incoherent.
The Story of a Bad Boy
A Sweet Films presentation of a Jean Doumanian production. Produced by Doumanian. Executive producer, J.E. Beaucaire. Co-executive producer, Letty Aronson. Co-producer, Aronson. Directed, written by Tom Donaghy.
Camera (color), Garrett Fisher; editor, Barbara Tulliver; music themes, Angelo Badalamenti; score, Chris Hajian; music supervisors, Kenny Vance, Ken Weiss; production designer, Dina Goldman; costumes , Laura Bauer; art director, Paolo Bonfini; set decorator, Lisa Schilling; sound (Dolby), Aaron Rudelson; associate producer, Hilary Hinckle; assistant director, Guy H. Rocourt II; casting, Susan Shopmaker. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, June 23, 1999. Running time: 85 MIN.
Pauly ..... Jeremy Hollingworth
Noel ..... Christian Camargo
Sprygo ..... Stephen Lang
Elaine ..... Julie Kavner
Ludmilla ..... Lauren Ward
Colin ..... Howie Ravikoff
Carla ..... Sherile Cargill
Jimmy ..... Bill Velin
Mr. Fontaine ..... Gerry Becker
Another gay screen-teen pops out of the closet in "The Story of a Bad Boy," playwright Tom Donaghy's debut feature. Pic approaches familiar terrain with some offbeat ideas, but its fluctuations between cartoonish humor and stabs at poignancy --- neither particularly well realized --- come off more arbitrary than idiosyncratic. Commercial prospects are fuzzy for a movie that, while hardly dull, seems half earnest "After School Special," half "Porky's"-style high school sex comedy.
Those more crude aspects are apparent right off the bat, as 17-year-old protag Pauly (Jeremy Hollingworth) lustily eyes a fellow altar boy at church, slips off to masturbate in the bathroom, then returns to give us a wink.
Despite the presence of a sometime girlfriend (Lauren Ward), small-town Jersey lad Pauly's problem isn't so much formative sexual confusion as indiscriminate adolescent sexual overdrive. Kicked out of Catholic school (for kissing a nun), he makes new friends at a public institution --- including one girl and two boys who each seem quite ready, willing and able for horizontal adventure.
But school play tryouts introduce Pauly to handsome, histrionically angst-ridden student teacher Noel (an amusing perf by Christian Camargo), and it's the latter who now earns his ardent attention. They indeed commence a secret (if not for long) romance. Meanwhile, Pauly is in way over his head on many other fronts: dealing with conflicting friends' needs and his g.f.'s increasing dismay, maintaining a high grade average, participating in the track team and marching band, etc. Pauly's fretful mom (Julie Kavner) and jockish dad (Stephen Lang) are at wit's end trying to comprehend his unpredictable behavior.
Overcomplicated, underdeveloped screenplay goes off the rails entirely when Pauly goes to the big city, somehow ending up in a sleepless three-day sex-drugs-booze-disco bender with several older gay men. He makes it home safely , only to collapse at an inopportune school-competition moment.
Frantic in tone, "Bad Boy" piles up cliches without the writing depth to make them meaningful or the directorial style to make a virtue out of such haphazardness. Too many sequences come off unfocused, or as flat-out non sequiturs. Dialogue is often fumbling, even when reaching for an actual point (e.g. "Dreams ... you know, they're always going somewhere"). Writer-director Donaghy's more outre comic ideas, like Noel's disastrous school-play musicalizing of "The Scarlet Letter," are executed in the broadest possible manner.