Well-intentioned but laughable, amateurish drama “Jesse’s Closet” feels like a church-basement stageplay perilously transferred to video. Austin-based writer/helmer Ken Johnson’s goal seems to be providing an instructive message of faith and tolerance, especially to African-American communities that might need help getting past the denial of being at risk in the AIDS epidemic. Typical of pic’s clumsy gap between intention and execution: The only HIV-positive character here is a gay white man. Prayer reps misbegotten indie’s best hope for public exposure.
Upright young black physician Brad (co-producer Marc Pouhe) is stunned when an attempt to donate blood after his heart-attack-stricken father reveals they’re not related — he was secretly adopted. Protag gets another shock upon locating his biological father Jesse (Ken Dresen), who’s white. (Unfortunately for plot credence, thesp Pouhe doesn’t look mixed-race.) Dying of AIDS, Jesse confesses having had sole hetero fling long ago with a now-deceased black female pal. After Jesse expires, his cartoonishly snotty mother (Gay Gaughan-Hurst) and drunken, abusive stepdad (Frank Curcio) show up, prompting flashbacks, arguments and florid monologues. Some hysterically hammy perfs provide amusement in a package with more than its share of Ed Wood-like qualities.