Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss
1998, R, 92 min. Directed by Tommy O'Haver. Starring Sean P. Hayes, Brad Rowe, Richard Ganoung, Meredith Scott Lynn, Paul Bartel.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 11, 1998
The central question in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is a familiar one in these confusing, ambisexual times: Is he or isn't he? The premise here is simple: Billy (Hayes), a lonely, unemployed photographer with a history of finding Mr. Wrong, falls hard for Gabriel (Rowe), an enigmatic waiter with strikingly good looks, and then agonizes because he's unsure of whether the object of his affection can reciprocate the feeling. It's a premise that makes for some keen romantic, sexual, and comic tension that's achingly funny for anyone -- gay or straight -- who has had to endure the possibility of unrequited love. (Or lust, for that matter.) While the issue of Gabriel's sexual identity in Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss provides the film's narrative hook, there's more than meets the eye here … literally. It's The Mirror Has Two Faces thing -- you know, that stuff about beauty being more than skin deep. Billy is a great guy, immensely likable and relatively good-looking, but in the face department, he's no match for the impossibly handsome Gabriel, whose features lie somewhere between Brad Pitt and Rob Lowe. And so Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss, in its own subtle and unassuming way, takes on the culture of desire, in which surface is paramount to depth. But as in Streisand's film, the message is ultimately a mixed one. In view of the last scene, it's hard to decide whether Billy is falling into the same old trap again, or whether he's being rewarded for having survived an extreme case of lovesickness. That aside, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is a fairly entertaining movie, smartly directed by O'Haver, who uses drag-queen numbers and black-and-white dream sequences to comment intermittently on Billy's emotional turmoil, and energetically acted by a cast that strikes the proper balance between funny and serious. All in all, it's a pretty good smooch.