Jan 13, 2013

[Movies] Elliot Loves (2012)

It is interesting when movies firmly root themselves to a culture. It's probably why folks like Amy Tan have such a strong following in terms of her books since she bases her stories firmly in her Chinese heritage. This is just an example.

Elliot Loves was nice in how it is both an LGBT movie and a Latino one. It's unavoidable that I feel lightly greater affinity for Latino stories than perhaps African American ones given our shared Spanish history from a cultural perspective. Plus I think I appreciate their humor more.

The story at the heart of this movie isn't one that solely belongs to young boys of Dominican origins. In fact, it's a story that feels far too familiar for comfort - one that we have either experienced ourselves or seen time and time again in others.

And that's the real power of this movie - its ability to tell a compelling story in a manner that keeps things feeling very, very true and real. And yet it does not weigh itself down in too much drama either.

Synopsis: Elliot Loves is a 2012 LGBT comedy drama written and directed by Terracino. As best as I can determine, this is his first feature-length creative release and it won Best of the Festival at the 2012 Indianapolis LGBT Film Festival and the Audience Award for the 2012 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

Elliot (Fabio Costaprado) is your typical 21 year old gay boy who wears on his heart on his sleeve. He works at a New York night club and appears to fall in love pretty easily - and this is clearly demonstrated in the first major sequence where he meets Joe (Monte Bezell) and feels really good about their night. But that quickly changes in the morning when Joe's boyfriend comes home and Elliot discovers that he was just another fling in some open relationship.

So as Elliot continues his quest for love with quite a number of different guys, we periodically cut to a 9 year old Elliot (Quentin Araujo) and learn more about his early life with his single parent mother (Elena Goode). And thus we see that a lot of his mother's "mistakes" in life may explain some of Elliot's own.

Fabio Costaprado is quite a skilled young actor. Sure he's a tad rough around the edges, but in terms of capturing the youthful exuberance of Elliot and how he talks a mile a minute about himself and his life is quite endearing. He's well-cast as the young mad who seems to follow along wherever his heart leads him with little concern for the consequences. At times some of his expressions may seem almost like caricatures of real people, but then you may be forgetting that (1) this movie is still a comedy and (2) there are young men who actually behave like this.

Quentin Araujo is equally impressive in his scenes as the younger Elliot and he certainly stands toe-to-toe with Elena Goode. And given roughly half the movie is his to bring to life, I did not find myself disliking his scenes or wishing to see more of the older Elliot. Both stories remained fairly well executed.

Now in most gay movies, we're used to seeing a fair amount of skin involving ridiculously beautiful or significantly muscled individuals. In Elliot Loves, we have more "natural" actors cast in the movie who are still fairly attractive or the types of guys you could imagine actually getting into bed with without the need to look like they live in gyms. And I really appreciated this aspect to things - it kept the movie more focused on its story and keeping things real as opposed to casting more "idealized" guys that inevitably maintain a bit of distance between the viewer and the material.

The movie features both silly comedic moments (like Elliot's dance to show he's clean) and rather heavy moments (a lot of the scenes with his mother) and manages to balance the differences between the two pretty well. There are moments when you wonder why we spend more time with either the younger or the older Elliot and how it will all come together and other times you can't help but wish we didn't cut away so soon. Overall pacing of the movie was steady but slowed a bit mid-way.

Still, Elliot Loves is a quaint movie with a solid story to tell and a skilled cast to help tell that story. I look forward to seeing what Terracino will come up with next given the strong start of this movie. I happily rate it as 4 guys that Elliot thinks he's truly in love with out of a possible 5.

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