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Gay Hollywood

As a promotional showcase for young showbiz talent, "Gay Hollywood" is perfectly serviceable. But as a docu purporting to explore the new challenges and possibilities facing gay artists in a Hollywood more open to them than ever before, Jeremy Simmons' film is far too timid.

A correction was made to this review on August 5, 2003.

As a promotional showcase for young showbiz talent, “Gay Hollywood” is perfectly serviceable. But as a docu purporting to explore the new challenges and possibilities facing gay artists in a Hollywood more open to them than ever before, Jeremy Simmons’ film is far too timid. Airing Aug. 11 as a cable two-parter on “The AMC Project,” this romp is entertaining enough in its glimpses of roller-coaster lives, but those yearning for a deeper study will be disappointed. Cable life will be solid, while vid sales may leap if one of Simmons’ subjects becomes genuinely famous.

Implicit is how gay culture has become part of Hollywood’s mainstream (one participant says that “L.A. is the gayest city in the world”), so that anti-gay bigotry is never even mentioned in the pic. To the contrary: One of the most interesting yet least examined phenomenon in the film (cursorily discussed among Simmons’ chosen group) is the notion gay actors, writers, directors and others may actually have a slight advantage in Hollywood.

Like a reality TV producer casting for color and conflict, Simmons has selected a potentially interesting quintet: Helmers Lance Black and Allan Brocka (whose relation to his famous Filipino uncle and filmmaker Lino Brocka is never mentioned); writer Benjamin Morgan; actor-model Robert Laughlin; and actor-comic-drag performer Micah McCain.

The first clash comes early, as Black openly objects to what he perceives as Simmons stacking the deck with stereotypically flamboyant gay men. This lends Black a certain independence (he even demands a contractual clause allowing him to fact-check the final cut), but his complaint ends up seeming misplaced, since only the ultra-extraverted McCain flirts with the stereotype.

Indeed the colorful McCain takes over the movie. As with youngster Alan Taylor in “The Real Cancun,” whose naivete instantly set him apart, McCain (in his ridiculous drag persona as “Bridgett of Madison County”) steps into the brutal gantlet of stand-up and naturally eclipses almost anything tried or done by anyone else in the group.

The only thing visual about Morgan’s existence as a writer, for example, is his going to meetings with TV executives who give him stinging critiques, while Laughlin — a poster boy for the struggling, out-of-work actor — spends much of his time either waiting by the phone or standing in as an extra in cheapie soft-core video shoots.

Brocka’s life is a bit more engaging as he scrambles to pay the bills by signing up to helm a cheesy-sounding vid project. After his early run-in with the filmmakers, Black recedes to the background, yet he has the most interesting-sounding meeting of all for his work-in-progress — a casting confab with Holly Hunter — which Simmons apparently couldn’t record.

Despite low-grade vid lensing, wide-angle shot choices keep things flexible in tight spaces. Closing credits note that Black’s docu, “My Life With Count Dracula,” had “a successful screening at the Los Angeles Film Festival”– a remarkably fast editorial addition since the L.A. fest concluded only three weeks before pic’s Outfest unspooling.

In the end, however, the project’s animating idea, of what it means to be gay in Hollywood in 2003, is lost along the way.

Gay Hollywood

  • Production: An American Movie Channel presentation of a World of Wonder production. Produced by Jeremy Simmons, Michael Warwick. Executive producers, Randy Barbato, Fenton Bailey. Directed by Jeremy Simmons.
  • Crew: Camera (color, video), Jesse Phinney, Thaddeus Wadleigh, Jerry Henry; editor, Rick Weis ; music, Jimmy Henry; sound, Todd Bishop, Aaron Muncy, Jon Ailetcher ; supervising sound editor, Eduardo Magana; associate producer, Liz Danahey. Reviewed at L.A. Outfest, July 13, 2003. Running time: 88 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Lance Black, Allan Brocka, Robert Laughlin, Micah McCain, Benjamin Morgan, Judy Tenuta, Bruce Vilanch, Stuart Krasnow, Richard Day, Bob Read, Larry Andries, Richard Ayoub.
  • Music By: