1999, R, 110 min. Directed by Simon Shore. Starring Ben Silverstone, Charlotte Brittain, Brad Gorton, Jessica A. Hart.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., June 11, 1999
When you're 16 years old, sex is a mystery: it's forbidden, intoxicating, bewildering. For Steven (Silverstone), the gangly British lad in Get Real, it's all the more perplexing because he's gay, a troubling secret shared only with his best friend and the anonymous men he picks up in public restrooms. When an improbable romance develops between Steven and a handsome school jock, John (Gorton), he couldn't be happier, except for one thing: John is petrified of his own sexuality. And so, Get Real recounts the rocky road that Steven must travel before coming to terms with the inescapable realization that it is better to live the truth than to live a lie. Like the similarly themed Beautiful Thing (or even less so, Maurice) of a few years back, Get Real evokes the trauma of adolescent angst as a bittersweet experience, both confusing and exhilarating. (The rhythm of this movie effortlessly captures these conflicting emotions.) Whether gay, straight, or somewhere in between, it's a tough time for everyone -- even the upperclassman who bullies Steven relentlessly is tortured in his own way. Yet Get Real is full of rich humor in its observations of teenage rituals. At a school social function, Steven and John slow-dance with their female dates, all the while gazing intently into the other's eyes; the punchline to this scene is by far the film's funniest moment. While the character of John is not as fully realized as you would hope -- he seems too comfortable with Steven in their private moments, if he's as closeted as the film would lead you to believe -- the fullness of Steven's character more than compensates. As portrayed by the engaging Ben Silverstone, he's a gawky duckling on the verge of becoming a beautiful swan. His wide smile, protruding Adam's apple, and good-natured demeanor make him instantly likable. The film's climactic scene, in which Steven comes out in a very public way, is dramatically forced, but nevertheless effective because Silverstone has won our empathy early on. Even at its most contrived, however, this British film is notches above Hollywood's current teen flicks, which seem to aim more for demographics rather than people. Can you imagine a movie such as this one coming from a major American studio? Get real.