Better camerawork and a lower gross-out factor than usual seem to have taken the oomph out of bad boy Bruce LaBruce, whose “Gerontophilia” sports a great title and a funny opening before going all limp. Generally the crown prince of taboos, LaBruce is only mildly outre in this story of a young man unexpectedly discovering he’s got a thing for granddaddies. Maybe if the actors had been coached to actually act, it would have come across better, but their painfully stilted delivery is leaden rather than campily artificial. The usual queer showcases will line up.
The producers probably expected more considering LaBruce had a bigger budget than he’s used to (reportedly $2 million), and for the first time his content barely merits an R rating (if that). Yet “Gerontophilia” isn’t likely to find a crossover audience, notwithstanding an uncharacteristic sweetness, as if he wanted to channel the kind of warmhearted gay vibes of a John Waters. The one semi-nauseating shot, with the teen licking an open bedsore, might discomfort the average indie crowd but won’t be enough to excite LaBruce’s hardcore fans.
Just out of high school, Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie) has a g.f., Desiree (Katie Boland), who goes wild for women revolutionaries of the past (the opener, when she practically climaxes shouting out the names of questionable rebels like Lizzie Borden, Patty Hearst and Aileen Wuornos, gets the biggest LOL moment). He works as a lifeguard until he becomes aroused giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to an elderly man and decides he wants to be around old guys more often, so he takes a job as an orderly at a nursing home.
There he meets 81-year-old Melvyn Peabody (Walter Borden). Realizing Melvyn is being overmedicated, Lake conspires to hide his pills and suddenly the confused geezer becomes a charmer. The two start sleeping together, but when admin catches on, they dope Melvyn up again, forcing Lake to bundle him out of the home. In “Harold and Maude” style they embark on a road trip, during which Lake is forced to confront his green-eyed monster of jealousy.
Perhaps age is tempering some of LaBruce’s excesses, and while there’s something undeniably transgressive about a cross-generational romance of this span, it’s played for cuteness rather than to shake up bourgeois sensibilities. Smooth-flowing dialogue was never LaBruce’s forte (his last film, “L.A. Zombie,” was largely silent), but here the conversations are more wooden than the low-budget 1970s pics the helmer claims as stylistic inspiration. Newcomer Lajoie has a sweet smile yet doesn’t know what to do with his lines; he’s hardly alone.
Lensing is more professional than one usually sees in the director’s work, though slo-mo is overused. Always profligate with his music, LaBruce here relies too much on aural stimulus to maintain interest.