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Eating Out
cast: Scott Lunsford, Jim Verraros, Ryan Carnes, Emily Brooke Hands, and Rebekah Kochan

writer and director: Q. Allan Brocka
90 minutes (15) 2004
widescreen ratio 1.77:1
TLA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Eating Out can be seen as the gay cinematic movement's attempt at making a screwball sex comedy. The film starts out with six-pack and bizarre hairstyle-sporting Caleb being dumped by his deranged girlfriend for failing to be nasty enough whilst engaging in sexual role-playing. If only he were gay... things would be much easier! To clear his head he attends a party with his gay roommate Kyle and encounters Gwen. Gwen is a fag hag extraordinaire and has a tendency to be attracted to gay guys. In an attempt to get Gwen to at least talk to Caleb, Kyle suggests he's gay and Caleb ends up having to go out on a date with Marc Everhard (yes... that's his name), Gwen's gay roommate. As Caleb tries to get to Gwen through Marc he gets forced to go through a series of torments such as snogging Marc and then getting blown by him before finally coming out to his parents before the whole thing comes crashing down and the truth finally... ahem... comes out.

As far as sex comedies go this is decidedly hit and miss. The film begins with Tiffani and Caleb 'in character' for sex and the facts that the film is shot on video and that the acting isn't exactly brilliant really give it that porn film ambience, something not helped by an astonishingly misjudged score that runs continuously and is based on saxophone and bass guitar. The most successful sex comedies work by managing to sell a palpable sense of frustration. In American Pie it seems plausible that people would fuck pastry and, in Porky's, going to a shack in the woods in order to be the seventh bloke in a row to screw a hooker seems believable because you could feel how frustrated the characters are. However, the seedy atmosphere in this film doesn't make you believe that the characters are frustrated for even a second... if anything it creates an atmosphere where the viewer can't help but expect people to pull out engorged members and set to ploughing each other like medieval serfs.

The comedy is also rather patchy. The film begins well with Kyle producing some wonderful lines ("Don't Heche me into a Mariah" name-checking an actress who was briefly a lesbian, and a diva who had a nervous breakdown) but once the Caleb and Marc pairing is established, the laughs simply stop coming. In fact, in the second half of the film, the only laughs to be had are from the female characterisation with both Gwen and Tiffani talking and acting more like drag queens than real women (Tiffani even looks a lot like a drag queen with huge hair, repulsive make-up and a gigantic vibrator).

As a comment on the nature of modern relationships, this film can be characterised as high-concept and low implementation. This film blends traditional rom-com formulas such as 'guy putting up with abuse in order to get girl' or 'guy getting into ugly relationship in order to get close to girl' and attempts to sell the idea of 'straight guy dates gay guy to get at straight girl'. However, the traditional formulas work because the hero truly suffers for his love. In Meet The Parents, Fokker gets put through the wringer in order to prove his love for his girlfriend. He emerges at the end victorious over the utterly unreasonable and weird family. However, in Eating Out, all Caleb has to do is what pretty much any gay guy would want to do if he got the chance; get blown by Marc. The problem with this film is that while it tries to play around with genre conventions, it mislays the very reason why the original formulas work. At the end of the film, Caleb gets what he wants but he does so by playing with poor Marc's emotions. In fact, the director realises this and sticks on an utterly unbelievable post scriptum about Kyle and Marc getting it together.

However, in glancing at the IMDb movie boards, something occurred to me. This film simply isn't for me. I am not the target audience. The target audience is girls who like to see blokes snogging, and gay men who are turned on by the idea of bedding straight guys. If you fall into either of these categories then you'll most likely enjoy the film and welcome rather than be puzzled by the extended softcore phone sex scene at the end of the second act. However, for the rest of us this is a blandly inoffensive little film that doesn't quite work but has enough spark and weirdness to it to keep you happily watching.
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