Tiger orange, the color, is meant to be “the loudest thing on the block”; “Tiger Orange,” the film, isn’t nearly so brash. Wade Gasque’s feature debut, co-scripted with his lead Mark Strano, is a standard indie gay pic about an irresolute guy in a California hick town whose irrepressible and irresponsible brother, also gay, turns up soon after their father dies. Earnest and honest, though hamstrung by lackluster dialogue, “Orange” will get traction from queer fests largely thanks to the legit pic debut of former porn star Frankie Valenti, aka Johnny Hazzard (yes, he can act).
Gasque aims to combine impressionistic imagery of small-town life with a relatively banal storyline whose lack of originality doesn’t mean the experiences aren’t real. Even as a kid, Chet (Ty Parker) was more conformist than younger bro Todd (Adrian Delcan), the latter invariably berated by their single dad (Vincent Duvall) for being a “sissy.” Fast forward to just after their father’s death: Todd (Valenti) is in L.A. while Chet (Strano), who never went anywhere, remains at home running the family hardware store, doing his best to downplay his sexuality.
Todd’s menage-a-trois relationship crumbles and he’s fired: Where else to go but home? Tensions expectedly rise as Chet eyes his brother’s freedom with equal parts envy and embarrassment. When his old school chum Brandon (Gregory Marcel) returns from New York to look after his ailing mother, Chet struggles to find the courage to go after what he wants.
Aside from commonplace dialogue, the pic is hindered by Chet’s colorlessness: Vanilla is too flavorful a description for the character, making Brandon’s attraction to the guy fairly incredible. Also problematic are his occasional breathless voiceovers, in one-sided conversation with his late father: “What did you hope for me?,” “Did you want anyone for me?” and such are meant to deepen a sense of Chet’s conflicted inner life, yet they feel forced. Similarly, mood shots of the locale — a flowering branch, etc. — aim for ambiance, even a sense of poetry, but play too much like first-film gambits designed to make a standard story more atmospheric.
Among the actors, Marcel (TV’s “Mind Games”) has the most screen wattage, deftly conveying a full, interesting character despite very little to back him up. Valenti is well suited to his role as an extrovert hiding inner wounds: With some voice training to hone his intonation and make it more supple, there’s no reason why he couldn’t have a decent acting career. Flashbacks are inexpertly inserted, and occasional double-exposure p.o.v. shots, when Chet’s feeling particularly vulnerable, are superfluous.