VQFF 2015: Those People provides polished melodrama

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      Those People (USA)

      Queer cultural references, from Brideshead Revisited to the U.S. version of Queer as Folk, abound in writer-director Joey Kuhn's polished, but never slick, feature-film debut Those People.

      Hal Sparks–knock-off Jonathon Gordon plays Charlie, a Jewish painter completing his MFA, who caters to the whims of his lifetime friend, snotnosed and self-destructive rich kid Brian Kinney—er, Sebastian (Jason Ralph)—as they cavort about Manhattan leaving their privilege unchecked.

      Both are riddled with daddy issues, though Sebastian's are the more pressing as his Wall Street criminal father ("the most hated man in New York") is doing time and the paparazzi stalking Sebastian trigger a rift within their tight social circle.

      Charlie attracts the attention of Lebanese concert pianist Tim (Hanz Sleiman), whose maturity contrasts the emotional indecisiveness of Charlie, who has unresolved feelings for Sebastian beyond codependency. Alas, those unconsumated yearnings repeatedly threaten Charlie and Tim's blossoming (and beautifully shot) romance. Fear of intimacy and the demons of self-loathing serve as the thematic undercurrents, sometimes with thrusts that overshoot the narrative parameters.

      A solid cast provides geniality for the insular proceedings (Gordon's puppyish pep is alternately appealing and cloying), but bursts of melodrama betray the story by serving the needs of the plot beyond the demands of the characters. (In fact, characters often reprimand each other for being too dramatic.)

      Yet with friends as queer as these folk, who needs gossip-girl enemies?

      Those People screens at International Village on Friday (August 14, 9:15 p.m.) and August 20 (9:10 p.m.) as part of the 2015 Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.