There are some terrific films streaming this month about gay characters grappling with love, life, and death. Two French imports deal with men having a professional crisis, while four films feature characters living with HIV/AIDS. Here is a rundown of what to watch.
Out on Paramount+ February 23 is “Three Months,” the sweet semi-autobiographical feature debut of writer/director Jared Frieder. The film concerns Caleb (out actor Troye Sivan), a sarcastic teen in Hollywood, Florida who has been exposed to HIV. A doctor (out gay actor Javier Muñoz) at the Pride clinic advises him that he must wait three months to confirm his status — which only causes Caleb’s anxiety to spiral further. When he attends an HIV support group, Caleb meets Estha (Viveik Kalra), a closeted teen, and over the course of the summer, the guys get to know each other—and possibly fall in love. The film may be geared to younger viewers, but the actors (both in their 20s) are charming. Sivan is an ingratiating performer who cracks wise, and Kalra is even better as Estha, who delivers some nice (albeit obvious) speeches about the pressure to be perfect, keeping his “real self” hidden, and the shame he feels. Frieder may feature too many references to the late HIV-positive teen, Pedro Zamora, from “The Real World” — the film is produced by MTV Entertainment Studios — but its heart is in the right place. “Three Months” is endearing, and it is also a rare film about gay teens and HIV, which may be reason enough to give it a look.
“My Best Part”
Directed and co-written by out gay French actor Nicolas Maury, “My Best Part” is out on VOD and at the Quad Cinema February 25. It is a sad-sack comedy about Jérémie (Maury), a sensitive gay actor who is hoping to land a role in an upcoming production of “Spring Awakening.” To chill out, and prepare for his audition, he heads to his mother Bernadette’s (Nathalie Baye) bed and breakfast. Jérémie is also escaping his breakup with Albert (Arnaud Valois). If Maury’s gentle film makes its points broadly in the setup, once Jérémie settles into his retreat, he starts to improve. He has some lovely heart-to-heart chats with his mother as well as Kévin (Théo Christine), a handsome young man who is working on his mother’s property. These moving exchanges redeem the film as much as they redeem Jérémie, whose jealousy is at the heart of his emotional problems. “My Best Part” is an assured directorial debut by Maury, who leans into his character’s insecurities and, in the process, finds himself. Viewers may resist him, but those who accept him and go on his journey will be rewarded.
The feature film “Moon Manor” (on demand March 11), recounts the last day of octogenarian Jimmy’s (out gay activist James “Jimmy” Carrozo) life. HIV-positive and suffering from Alzheimer’s, Jimmy has opted to host a “FUN-eral” emceed by flamboyant drag queen Juana Bang (Roz Hernandez). The evening will culminate with his death, assisted by Fritti (Debra Wilson), a death doula. The day is chronicled by Andrew (Lou Taylor Pucci), an obituary writer who asks Jimmy about his life. Flashbacks reveal his relationship with Ricky (Miles Crawford), whom he met as a youth when they both auditioned for “Hair.” The men would live and work together until Ricky’s passing 18 years later. “Moon Manor” offers insights about being present in life as well as confronting fears and various testimonies about love and friendship. (Ricki Lake inexplicably turns up at the FUN-eral). But the film is a bit overplotted, with a well-meaning but clumsily handled subplot about Jimmy reconnecting with his estranged brother Gordon (Richard Riehle), who wants to save his soul, and surreal moments involving Jimmy seeing “intuition” in the form of an alien creature. Inspired by Carrozo’s real life, “Moon Manor” is a creative introduction to a man whom viewers might otherwise never meet.
It’s My Party
For anyone interested in another film about assisted death, “It’s My Party,” out gay filmmaker Randall Kleiser’s 1996 feature about a man (Eric Roberts) dying of AIDS who throws a “goodbye” party, is being re-released on home video March 15.
Down in Paris
The elegiac drama “Down in Paris” (available March 15 on VOD) has Richard (director Antony Hickling), a filmmaker, walking off set because a scene is “not working.” He proceeds to have a series of encounters over the course of a long night that help him gain some perspective on his life and work. First, he meets a woman in a bar, then he runs into his ex and has a fight. He visits his friend, a psychic, and next heads into a church where he has a strange experience. (The film includes a few magical realist moments that can feel pretentious.) With each meeting, Richard expresses his doubts and lets others provide their observations about him and his situation. “Down in Paris” is, in part, about chance, and how a stranger can offer a new view of life — consider his exchange with the handsome Claude (Mike Fédée), whom Richard literally meets by accident — but it is also about loss. The single, depressed Richard is grieving for his late father, his failed relationships, and his inability to work. (He gets a bit unblocked after a visit to sex club, where he is participates in a three-way with another couple). Hickling’s film is self-indulgent at times, but the various supporting players are what makes Richard’s journey to self-acceptance engaging.
“Rock Hudson’s Home Movies”
Best of all this month is Mark Rappaport’s incisive 1992 documentary, “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” (available on Kino Now March 22), which dissects the on- and off-screen life of Rock Hudson and how his homosexuality was coded in his popular films. Narrated by Eric Farr, the film assembles clips to show the gay implications that were hiding in plain sight —such as why Hudson’s character can’t marry, or his many “interrupted” kisses (that suggest he wasn’t interested in women). There are not-so-coded messages in scenes with other men — such as Otto Kruger, Burl Ives, and the queer-reading Tony Randall — that suggest gay relationships. And Rappaport unpacks the cruising, touching, innuendo, and copious shirtlessness that were staples of many of the actor’s films. The result is both comic and knowing with Farr’s fabulously wink-wink commentary that examines the layers of Macho and Homo, the feminization of Hudson, and how the actor was frequently a (closeted) gay man, pretending to be straight, playing a straight man pretending to be gay. (See “Pillow Talk,” “Lover Come Back,” and “Send Me No Flowers” which paired Hudson with Doris Day and Randall). In addition, another montage ironically addresses Hudson’s battle with AIDS. Amusing and provocative, “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” is a smart and serious examination of social conventions, the stigma of homosexuality, and the spectacle of stardom.