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Movie Review

Hookups, hang-ups, and humor

Jesse Archer (left, with Charlie David) is co-writer and costar of Casper Andreas's same-sex romantic comedy. Jesse Archer (left, with Charlie David) is co-writer and costar of Casper Andreas's same-sex romantic comedy. (EMBREM ENTERTAINMENT)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Tom Russo
Globe Correspondent / May 16, 2008

It's a neat trick that a movie acutely aware of gay stereotypes ends up getting its best material by trading on precisely those. Indie writer-director Casper Andreas's same-sex romantic comedy "A Four Letter Word" spotlights Luke (co-writer Jesse Archer), a flamboyant, blond-streaked New York party boy even fonder of hookups than of clothes tricked out with a spangly Laverne DeFazio L. Out clubbing one night, Luke is stopped in his prowling tracks by Stephen (Charlie David, Here TV's "Dante's Cove"), a straight talker who dismisses him as "a gay cliché," and sends him into a tailspin.

Even after the two subsequently get together, Luke remains in a self-analytical twist, thanks partly to incessant debate with his level-headed, moralizing co-worker, Zeke (Cory Grant). The movie's sharpest scenes, easily, are when Luke and Zeke are trading barbs at the sex shop where they work, half the time carrying on hilariously oblivious to the raunchy toys they've got in hand. If it weren't for the paraphernalia, these exchanges might pass for something out of a Judd Apatow comedy. (Well, a gay Judd Apatow comedy.) When Stephen stops by the store to ask his new guy on a proper date, Luke sniffs, "Date is a four-letter word for interview." No worries, says Stephen: "I won't even bother to check your references." Zeke, not missing a beat: "That would take years."

Andreas's storytelling sputters when Luke gets into some drama with Stephen, who's got a compulsive lying habit that trumps any boring old anonymous-sex addiction. Uncharacteristically earnest messages follow about the importance of being honest with oneself and others in matters of the heart. There's also not much to subplots, featuring Virginia Bryan as an AA-attending, bi-confused bridezilla, and Steven M. Goldsmith and J.R. Rolley as newly cohabitating lovers with compatibility issues. (Like Archer, both Bryan and Rolley previously played their characters in "Slutty Summer," Andreas's feature debut.) And while a fair amount of the acting is unpolished, it grows visibly more so every time a lip-lock, clinch, or graphic sexual tumble looms - and there are plenty of them.

Better just to hang in for those moments when Andreas gets into party-boy mode himself, such as a support group scene in which Luke works fellow sex addicts into a lather with his Fire Island tales. The film also serves up latte-frothy glimpses of an all-drag bridal shower, an erotic spinning class, and - all of 90 seconds into the proceedings - naked yoga. Don't forget to bring your wipe-down towel.

A Four Letter Word

Directed by: Casper Andreas

Written by: Andreas, Jesse Archer

Starring: Archer, Charlie David, Cory Grant, and Virginia Bryan

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 87 minutes

Unrated (profanity, nudity, and

graphic sex-a-go-go)

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