This is an exceptionally good movie with such strong performances that at times it’s hard to remember that you are only watching a film.
Cliff is a very sweet 18-year old, celebrating his birthday with his mother and younger sister. Mother tries hard, but doesn’t get Cliff’s frustrations. Sister, Cookie, does and gives Cliff the wherewithal for a night out to have sex.
Cliff heads downtown and meets a hustler, the beautiful Butch. Butch is enigmatic, intelligent, sensitive, but he’s also a ruthless hustler and junkie. Gradually, Cliff is pulled into Butch’s world. He’s in love with Butch; Butch is in love with money because that funds his drugs, which he needs to do the things he does to earn the money…. This vicious circle begins to suck Cliff in.
There are some amazing scenes in this movie that really took me aback: things I’ve not seen portrayed in films before. They are very painful to watch, disturbing in the true sense of that word. Human nature is shown in all its great vagaries, very much from innocent Cliff’s eyes.
Sex is at the core of this movie: the need for it and the provision of it. I’ve not been so disturbed by what I see as a harmless hobby since watching Body Without A Soul, and that’s an indication of just how powerfully Brendan Fehr plays Butch.
I highly recommend this movie. It’s incredibly thought-provoking as well as being damn good entertainment.
Doe-eyed suburbanite cutie, Cliff, has just turned 18. He’s bored, probably gay and desperate for sex. So when his spookily precocious kid sister presents him with a miniature of vodka, a joint, a subway ticket, and an order- go downtown and get sex that’s exactly what Cliff does.
There he encounters Butch, a hunky street hustler. Well, sex-on-a-stick Butch is really quite something, yet behind the tattoos and attitude there’s a lonely boy in need of a friend. Sweet Cliff still thinks he’s going to get lucky, and goes home with Butch. He latches onto Butch like a happy puppy, his sheltered eyes dazzled by street life.
Butch’s world of casual, non-vanilla sex and drugs is dark and shadowed. Superficially exciting but underneath dangerous and disturbing- prostitution, drug addiction and sexual abuse.
Much to Cliff’s disappointment, his virginity remains intact. Sex is something meaningless Butch gets paid to do. Just hanging out with a buddy is what he wants from Cliff. They jerk off together over the morning cornflakes, in a very sexy scene, and wrestle playfully in the shower. I really cared for both boys, hoped love could make everything good for them.
Cliff takes Butch home to meet his mother and sister. Butch is enchanted by Cliff’s normal life. The family and the nice house. All the things Cliff is rebelling against. I rather liked Cliff’s liberal, pot-smoking Mum who doesn’t judge her son because she remembers what it was like to be 18. And his too smart for her years kid sister, Cookie, doped up on Ritalin, who loves Butch like another brother.
Butch performs an act of compassion that’s deeply touching. Then he does something truly appalling, to satisfy a client that shatters Cliff’s faith in his friend. He’s a troubled and complex character. Brendan Fehr gives a knockout performance in the role. Andre Noble, too, really shines as Cliff, just adorable. The movie is worth watching for those two alone.
Butch does sex with men for money but love means gay and he’s not a faggot like those who only want his beautiful body. He cuts off emotionally to survive, so though Cliff offers unconditional love, like his clients, Butch doesn’t like himself enough to love back. Confused and conflicted, he uses drugs to stay numb.
A far from rosy picture of an aspect of gay life is shown through Butch’s clients, balanced between the harmless cuddly guy who likes to be spanked and predators into chicken. The film isn’t homophobic. It doesn’t say this is what all gay men are like. Stuff like this happens, though easier to pretend it doesn’t, and not every film wants to be like Big Eden.
The film is based on partly autobiographical short stories by Bruce Labruce (Raspberry Reich), and wasn’t what I expected. A bittersweet love story that combines first love on the cusp of adulthood with a hard-hitting look at life’s underside in a big Canadian city (Toronto I think). There’s an authenticity that makes it like a true story. One that’s not sugar-coated (that title is nicely ironic). Just like life, it’s messy, funny, sad and uplifting. A coming of age story that touches the emotions, and lingers beyond the final credits. Definitely recommended viewing.