Set in the period just before cinema’s iconic rebel made it big, homoerotic mood piece “Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean” pictures the thesp as a bisexual hustler with a crippled soul, pursuing his dream of stardom through trysts, tanning and acting class. Reappropriating both Dean and the ’50s, tyro helmer Matthew Mishory utilizes self-consciously arty, black-and-white lensing that provides certain satisfactions, but these quickly fade once the thesps open their mouths. Gay fests and niche distribs will be the most gratified.
A prologue featuring French poet Rimbaud underlines Mishory’s vision of the American actor as part of a line of iconoclastic artists. But his pre-fame Dean (James Preston from TV’s “The Gates,” evincing zero charisma) seems more sullen brat than talented maverick as he lolls around the pool of predatory agent Roger (producer Edward Singletary Jr.), reads “The Little Prince” in cheap digs shared with an acting-class chum (Dan Glenn), hangs on the words of his theater prof (David Pevsnor) and gets down and dirty with men and women. Sharp lensing, which includes Super 16 and Super 8 color accents, leads a solid indie craft package.