Friday, November 22, 2013

"Geography Club": a gentle comedy about LGBT students coming of age in high school, in a sheltering setting

"Geography Club" certainly offers a far gentler experience than the "Dallas Buyers".  Director Gary Entin (with writer Edmund), Huffington Films and distributor Breaking Glass Pictures give us a gentle gay coming of age drama.
  
In fact, the word “Geography” (however ineffective when it came up in Donald Trump’s “Apprentice”) is a euphemism for an informal support group for LGBT students at a Valley high school somewhere in LA.  Eventually, it will become publicly known as a “gay-straight alliance”.
The protagonist is an articulate, somewhat charismatic high school senior Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart), whose parents want him to get into Yale (where else?) and carry on their family.  (At one point, he tells a pal that his dad will want him to “have a wife”, as if a spouse is something you have rather than love).  The camera quickly makes us believe in Russ as the all-American boy, with a gentle machismo that rather recalls the short film character “Reid Rainbow”.  Early in the film, the students go on a camping field trip for a science class.  They have to collect and identify biological fossils, live together in a typical campsite barracks-style dorm, and even go kayaking.  (To do that, you have to be able to swim and to turn the boat over (something I failed at when I tried it, as I explain in my main blog, Oct. 9, 2007). On the trip, Kevin (Justin Deeley) asks him for academic help, and then falls for him.
  
One of the girls sees it, which explains how Russ gets invited to geography club.  But the straight kids keep testing him, including Trish (Meaghan Martin) who confronts him in the front seat of a car, with a homeless tramp staring at them. Another gay kid is an accomplished cellist, and plays a theme from the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto in one scene, before he is the object of a forcible cross-dressing and lipstick party, in which Russ participates willingly.
  
The health class (taught by Ana Gastayer as Mrs. Toles) makes the kids learn child care with robotic dolls, which I saw in use one time on a substitute teaching assignment.   The idea is that all kids will learn child care and parenting skills.  Russ builds a friendship with another straight kid, Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell) with whom he will perform the “modern family” or “Days of our Lives” Will-and-Sonny act sharing fake child care as two daddies.
  
On top of this, Russ has his one night of fame as a football star, accidentally, when he runs in a 50 yard touchdown to win a game after a beefier teammate throws a key block and removes the last defender.  I think baseball (with a homerun, or with a no-hit pitching performance) would have been a more credible sport for Russ.
  
  

The official site is here. The film rents on Amazon, and, being shot 2.35:1, doesn’t quite fill the screen vertically.  Some of the shots allowed the characters to remain out of focus a bit too long, so I question some of the camera work. 

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