Boys Life 2

1997, NR, 80 min. Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Alison Macor, Fri., April 18, 1997

Boys Life 2, an outstanding collection of four short films about young gay men, picks up where its successful predecessor -- 1994's Boys Life -- left off. Director Nickolas Perry's “Must Be the Music” opens the program of shorts with a glimpse into the Los Angeles nightlife of three gay teens. Jason (Milo Ventimiglia), his rather obnoxious friends Eric (Michael Saucedo) and Kevin (Justin Urich), and his straight cousin David (Travis Sher) spend a night on the town at a popular gay disco where Jason and Kevin end up vying for the attention of pretty boy Michael (Jason Adelman). Perry's film archly captures the melodrama of high school hook-ups and temper tantrums. Perhaps because of its slice-of-life breeziness, “Must Be the Music” didn't stay with me as long as the other three films did. “Nunzio's Second Cousin,” on the other hand, made such an impression that it left me squirming in my seat long after the last credits rolled by. Tom DeCerchio's film opens with Chicago cop Tony Randozza (Vincent D'Onofrio) and his date (David Fresco) leaving a bar and getting jumped by a gang of fag bashers. But as Tony reminds the young men whom he holds at gunpoint, “Sometimes fags bash back.” Learning that one of the bashers hails from his old neighborhood, Tony decides to educate young Jimmy (Miles Perlich) in his own version of a tough-love program that includes a darkly comic Italian dinner courtesy of his doting mother, brilliantly played by Eileen Brennan. D'Onofrio's tremendous performance as the hyper-vigilant cop smolders with sexy danger. Such emotion makes Mark Christopher's “Alkali, Iowa” seem positively bucolic in comparison. This film tackles repression of another kind as it follows Jack Gudmanson (J.D. Cerna) on his quest to discover the secrets kept buried within a rusted lunch pail on the grounds of the original family homestead. Not surprisingly, Mary Beth Hurt gives an outstanding performance as the strong Iowa farm wife whose closeted husband abandoned the family years before. Fourth and last in the program is Peggy Rajski's 1994 Academy Award-winning live-action short “Trevor.” Quite possibly the strongest of the four films in Boys Life 2, Trevor follows the monologue of the appealing 12-year-old title character (played by Brett Barsky) who worships Diana Ross and concocts elaborately staged suicides (à la Harold and Maude) to capture his distracted parents' attention. Befriended by Pinky (Jonah Rooney), the most popular boy in school, Trevor reveals his desire to pursue a life in the theatre. Soon, however, his unabashed happiness is spoiled by his classmates' insinuations about his sexual orientation, and Trevor must endure all manner of humiliating “exorcisms,” including a painfully awkward counseling session with a priest (Stephen Tobolowsky) at a Dairy Queen. All ends well in an upbeat, “Afterschool Special” kind of way, helped in no small part by a tongue-in-cheekily employed Diana Ross soundtrack. This thoroughly enchanting film marks the perfect ending for a program of shorts that strives to define (without being definitive) what it means to be young and gay -- in short, a program that shouldn't be missed.

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Boys Life 2, Various

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