The expertly produced film of the stage play "Southern Baptist Sissies" by Del Shores of the "Sordid Lives" film and television series and the U.S. version of the Showtime dramedy "Queer as Folk" is a crucial rude awakening. Uber-awesome LGBT film distributor Breaking Glass Pictures is facilitating experiencing this "must-see" look at the lives of very cute and sweet twinks by releasing it on DVD on November 11, 2014.
Many folks familiar with the works of Shores will expect his John Waters style of dark humor at the expense of the population generally known as trailer trash only to be blown away by the intensity that Shores mixes in with his trademark memorable one-liners and outrageous characters.
The importance of this film about the titular quartet of young men struggling to reconcile their love of church and God with their highly respectable homosexual desires screams for fully listing its awards, which most certainly will continue accumulating, and theatrical screenings. Space limits require referring folks who wish this information to the facebook page for the film.
The fact that the following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Sissies" portrays the scenes that provide the majority of the fodder for this review is a nice indication that your (at times humble) reviewer got this one right.
Shores awesomely starts "Sissies" with a terrific overall "Our Town" feel and an introduction to the incredible charm of the adorkable Emerson Collins (who could likely turn even the straightest boy gay with moderate effort) in his role as Mark, who narrates much of the film. Emerson's history with Shores includes a role in the "Lives" series.
The opening scene in which Mark and the boys in his band are offering an amusingly off-key rendition of a hymn in the Calvary Baptist Church in Dallas with breaks in which Mark makes witty asides regarding how gay men are denied the rewards that all others who worship God enjoy further adds to a sense that the audience is in for an evening of generally light theater.
This mood continues with Mark introducing effeminate (very talented) drag queen Benny (played by William Belli), quiet and low-key Andrew (played by Matthew Scott Montgomery), and butch jock/Mark love interest TJ (played by Luke Stratte-McClure), who instantly emits a strong vibe that a gay overture is as likely to prompt a punch in the face as a tongue down the throat depending on TJ's mindset at the time.
The best way to understand these characters and the actors who portray them are that they would be a perfect choice for a genuinely modern remake of the uber-awesome early '70s college-oriented Disney movies that star then-dreamy Kurt Russell.
"Lives" the series and "Will and Grace" star Leslie Jordan and the equally awesome Dale Dickey respectively play a stereotypically old southern queen and an aging alcoholic who frequent a gay bar that provides a setting for commentary on the not-so-nice aspects of a more mature gay life than our quartet is experiencing.
Jordan's Peanut has one of the best lines in the film in describing himself as a "social drinker." He explains this by stating that seeing someone else drinking prompts him to say "so shall I."
Jordan supplements light moments such as his bon mot with more poignant scenes in which he discusses the course that his life has taken; one such scene that he shares with Andrew is one of the best of the film.
The bar also provides a forum for Benny to dress in drag and belt out tunes as well as the divas he emulates; further, seeing him simultaneously strip down physically and emotionally provides an interesting insight into some previously unknown secrets of drag queens.
For their part, each boy gets a chance to shine through a monologue and/or at least one hilarious moment.
Many even mostly straight boys can relate to members of this fab four expressing youthful exuberance regarding the prospect of a sleepover with a close friend, sharing mutual glances while changing clothes with a buddy, and experiencing a play session getting a little out of hand to the extent that you must untuck your shirt to hide a stain on your jeans.
Darker themes include concerns by the boys' mothers that the indications that their offspring are gay will prevent them from having a close relationship with God, TJ torturing both himself and Mark by denying/suppressing his love, and Andrew feeling incredibly debilitating guilt.
Witnessing this pain and the associated ignorance prompts strong feelings of wanting the boys to get a second opinion regarding how Jesus and his dad feel about gay men; it is sad that these nice young fellows only hear the "God hates fags" side of the story.
A true confession seem an apt way to end this review; the arguably manipulative penultimate twist in the film elicited an unexpectedly strong response despite equally strong desires to repress it and to understand that impact. Following this with a happy ending for our boys (all whom deserve a hand; no pun intended) brings this experience to a very satisfying climax (that pun is intended.)
Anyone with questions or comments regarding either "Sissies" or any of Shores other works is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.