Boy Culture

by Robert Nesti

EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

Thursday April 26, 2007

Derek Magyar and Darryl Stephens in Boy Culture.
Derek Magyar and Darryl Stephens in Boy Culture.  

Boy Culture is the story of X, a Seattle hustler with a dozen high-paying clients and a household that would be right at home in a Falcon video - that is if X would give into his carnal desires. But in Q. Allan Brocka's film, adapted with a significant difference from Matthew Rettenmund's novel, X is a cynical observer on the gay scene, a bit of hopeless romantic, and - aside from his clients - a bit sexually repressed. He stashes a statue of the Virgin Mary away in his closet and carries a torch for his hunky roommate Andrew. That's easy to understand since Andrew is played by Darryl Stephens, who offers a more grounded performance than the flighty persona he plays on the Logo series Noah's Arc. Not that X - in the person of actor Derek Magyar - is any slouch in the looks department either. If anything, Boy Culture is an enjoyable exercise in eye candy.

But happily, it's a lot more than just that. Brocca, who adapted the novel with Philip Pierce, has created a wonderfully appealing narrator in X, who makes for a witty, tart observer of the scene to which he's so ambivalently inclined. X believes he's control; but when a client dies and he's replaced with the elegant Gregory (Patrick Bachau), the tables are turned on him. Gregory won't have sex until X wants to have sex with him, which creates an interesting dynamic between the two men. Add to this X's third roommate - a randy gay teen named Joey (Jonathon Trent) who lives rent-free and is hopelessly stuck on his landlord, and there are the makings of a smart romantic comedy.

The major twist from Rettenmund's novel comes with making Andrew an African-American. Not that it turns the film into some sort of heavy commentary on race; rather this is handled with a flip sense of humor, especially when Andrew takes X home for the wedding of his high school sweetheart and comes out to his parents in the film's funniest sequence. In fact it is scenes such as these that make Boy Culture a cut above most gay relationship films.

Brocca, whose previous film was the amusing sex comedy Eating Out, brings a light touch to story, but never allows his actors to resort to stereotype; instead his leads are both believable and charming. Magyar has a brooding intensity that brings to mind Jeremy Piven (and he also supplies the nicely-realized narration); Stephens smoothly brings to life the emotional depth of Andrew's evolving gay identity; Trent never overdoes his gay twink on the make, and is quite funny at doing it; and Bachau gives the film its much-needed emotional depth as the mysterious older man with a secret or two. Boy Culture proves true to its literary roots, but stands up nicely as a film, which may be the nicest compliment it can receive.


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Robert Nesti can be reached at [email protected].