2004, NR, 86 min. Directed by Bryan Poyser. Starring Rusty Kelley, Gary Chason, Viviane Vives, Cory Criswell, John Erler.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 3, 2004
Filmed in Austin and currently making the festival rounds in addition to a feature engagement at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, this debut feature from Cinematexas Short Film Festival co-founder Poyser isn’t anything you’d be advised to take your mom to see (unless your mom is Jenna Jameson). Ultimately a tale of two lonely misfits who circumnavigate a world primarily composed of soulless apartment complexes and unrequited longing, the film follows Wes (Kelley), a young kid desperate to lose his virginity, and his new best friend, Dusty (Chason), a former gay porn director who currently writes for Shorne Publications, the sort of pornographic publishing house that tackles niche sexuality markets such at the titular Dear Pillow, a "Penthouse Forum" knockoff saturated with dreamily descriptive letters to the editor that typically run along the lines of "Dear Editor, You’ll never believe what happened to me as I was grocery shopping the other day." This unlikely friendship is fueled in equal measure by Wes’ thrumming young hormones and Dusty’s need for a friend and desire to win back his ex-boyfriend Nick. While porn-as-bonding material is in the end a poor excuse for other, less inflammatory male rituals, Poyser’s film has much to say about the male condition (i.e., perpetually aroused) and the limits such a state of being places on a person. Shot on high-end prosumer digicam, Dear Pillow looks and sounds excellent. Like Slacker (another major Austin indie feature), Dear Pillow perfectly captures an environment not often seen in films: that of the quiet, slightly melancholic outposts of humanity that exist, and indeed thrive, among those whose professions and lives dance on the fringe. Both Kelley and Chason are perfect for their respective roles, with the young Kelly coming off particularly well: His Wes could be any of the myriad emo kids you see hanging around the Drag or in Mojo’s Daily Grind, sleepy-sullen on the outside but raging with untapped fires within. As he taps into nearby cell-phone calls and phone-sex lines with the aid of a police scanner, Wes’ virginal frustration is comically obvious. Once he hooks up with the more worldly (but equally juvenile) Dusty, however, his fortunes improve – up to a point. Viviane Vives, as their apartment manager, Cory Criswell as Wes’single dad, and Mister Sinus Theater’s John Erler round out a rock-solid cast in a film that pulls zero punches when it comes to discussing the often hot-button issues of human sexuality, pornography, and the desperate drive for companionship. Again, it’s hardly family fare, but a dark streak of humor keeps Dear Pillow from sinking into sex-talk overkill, and any film with the line, "God put heaven in a girl’s ass" is going to prove difficult to ignore if only for the post-screening arguments it’s likely to engender. (See austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2004-09-03/screens_feature.html for an interview with the director and producer.)