Film Reviews

THE FLUFFER

By • Nov 16th, 2001 •

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First Run Features & TLA Releasing
94 minutes

A small company that specializes in gender-bending theme films, as well as other solid offstream work such as Michael Apted’s 42 UP and Peter (LORD OF THE RINGS) Jackson’s FORGOTTEN SILVER, has caught a little lightening in a bottle with THE FLUFFER , a well made indie about obsessive behaviour in the gay porn industry.

My only problems with the film are its title and its third act. The title is, I guess, a matter of taste. Though the protagonist engages in the act of ‘fluffing’, which involves orally coaxing the male performer into a sexually heightened state for the camera, there’s no metaphor there that I can see, and it trivializes the film to suggest that that’s what the film is really about. As for the third act, I believe that given the subject, the filmmakers’ decision to avoid depicting graphic sex (there is far less than P.T. Anderson showed us in BOOGIE NIGHTS, for example) or to even show more than one glimpse of flaccid nudity, is something of a cheat. Before the film is halfway over, it’s clear that the narrative is being treated too antiseptically, and this growing awareness, combined with a reserve in the lead actor’s performance, result in an interest level decline as the story wends its way to a conclusion. Which is unfortunate, because THE FLUFFER is a commendable in depth study not only of the characters but of a nuanced and quirky industry, and the directors have done their research. Indeed, one of them, Wash West, as part of his homework, actually directed a few of the better regarded (NAKED HIGHWAY, DEVIL IS A BOTTOM) hard core gay films of recent years.

Sean (Michael Cunio) is new to L.A. with aspirations of making a living. Renting a video one evening, he (perhaps) misreads CITIZEN CUM for CITIZEN KANE, and ends up, much as John Hurt did in LOVE AND DEATH IN LONG ISLAND, with a crush on the lead actor, one Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). By the end of the first act he’s working on the set with his dream hunk, who is profoundly stupid and also professes to be straight. The befuddled neophyte is willing to compromise his ethics over and over (as does said hunk’s stripper girlfriend) trying to win the actor’s love. But Johnny’s trajectory can only lead to self-destruction, and Sean pulls out (figuratively) just in time.

The film looks terrific, is well staged, and the direction sifts out the real people behind the various wrong-headed desires being explored. Particularly effective is the casting: Gurney, Cunio and Roxanne Day couldn’t have been better chosen physically or more sympathetic in their roles, while familiar personalities Deborah Harry and Taylor Negron acquit themselves in perfect tempo with the procedings.

THE FLUFFER is one of the better depictions of gay life I’ve seen on celluloid. In its visceral softness, which as I’ve said bothers me, it nonetheless manages to be about ‘people’ rather than merely ‘gay people’, and its superior production invites the broadest possible audience to enjoy the drama.


Credits:
Directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash West.
Screenplay by West.
Cinematography by Mark Putman.

Cast:
Scott Gurney,
Michael Cunio,
Roxanne Day,
Deborah Harry,
Taylor Negron.

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