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'Fluffer, The'

'The Fluffer' tries to set deep drama in world of gay porn

Friday, April 19, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

If nothing else, give the people who made "The Fluffer" credit for ambition -- or chutzpah.

Directors Richard Glatzer and Wash West "wanted a cross between 'Midnight Cowboy' and 'Boogie Nights,' " says Robert Walden, the best known actor in "The Fluffer."

'The Fluffer'

RATING: Unrated; contains nudity, sexual content, strong language and drug use.

STARRING: Scott Gurney, Michael Cunio, Roxanne Day.

DIRECTORS: Richard Glatzer and Wash West.

WEB SITE: www.fluffer.com



Yes, but "Midnight Cowboy" had Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight and was directed by John Schlesinger. "Boogie Nights" had Mark Wahlberg and Julianne Moore and the rest of director Paul Thomas Anderson's splendid repertory company.

"The Fluffer," now at the Harris Theater, must settle for Scott Gurney and Michael Cunio but, to be fair, the film's shortcomings are not entirely their fault. Glatzer and West are not Anderson or Schlesinger, artists who are skilled at negotiating the shifting moods and tones of a complex screenplay.

Cunio plays Sean, who has recently moved to Los Angeles and hopes to get into movies. He rents what he thinks is "Citizen Kane" at the video store, but someone has substituted a gay porn tape starring a smoldering hunk named Johnny Rebel (Gurney). Sean becomes obsessed with Johnny, and manages to get a job (Walden plays the man who hires him) as a cameraman at the company that produces his videos.

But Sean also agrees to duties that are not in the job description -- helping Johnny get up for his next scene.

Sean's unspoken desire faces a few considerable roadblocks. For one thing, Johnny is straight. He does gay porn because it pays better. He also has a hot girlfriend, Julie (Roxanne Day), who works as a stripper named Babylon.

The biggest problem is that no one loves Johnny quite as much as he loves himself -- or, at least, the image of himself that he keeps seeing in the videos, gay magazines and in the mirror.

Obviously, all three characters are hiding their true selves under false exteriors, and the friction must sooner or late ignite.

The movie begins with a likable, gently mocking tone -- except for Johnny and Sean, the pornographers have no illusions about the business they are in. By the time it is over, we are probing deep, dark psychological secrets and contemplating the final stages of a character's disintegration.

The transition occurs in fits and starts, in part because the filmmakers start to hammer away at the obvious and in part because Gurney is so busy showing off his muscular exterior that he never really gets around to displaying Johnny's internal conflict except in the most superficial of ways, and Johnny is not exactly the most articulate of men.

At the same time, Sean can hardly bring himself to say what he is feeling, either, although the filmmakers at least let us see the origin of his sexual ambivalence.

In other words, "The Fluffer" is not exactly the fluffy romp that one might be expecting but a movie that tries not to take itself too seriously -- until it does.

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