a film by John Keitel
1997 | 92 mins | US
›› Defying Gravity
a sincere look at coming out, fraternity style
Defying Gravity by John Keitel This is the story of John Griffith, Griff to his friends and a campus student proud to be just one of the 'towel-snapping, group-showering, beer-drinking' lads. Only this lad has a lad of his own in the form of Pete, an out gay man whose homosexual openness lies in stark contrast to the closeted mind of Griff; a man who is still coming to terms with his own sexuality. Little wonder then that cracks in their relationship are starting to appear.

Yet in as much as Griff would prefer to remain in the university closet, fate has a way of opening the door to let homosexuality spring free. Only in this instance, it takes the form of a violent gay bashing that results with Pete being rushed to hospital, exposing in its wake the ingrained homophobia of the fraternity set. Yet not everyone is homophobic. Certainly not Todd, close friend to both Griff and Pete and a man in whom the word prejudice does not exist. Trouble is, how does Griff tell Todd that he's in love with Pete, when he can't even bring himself to inform the police of a fact that whilst key to identifying the assailants of his lover, would equally reveal his true sexuality for all of the fraternity to see.

Defying Gravity by John Keitel Yes you've guessed it, for here writer and director John Keitel has gone out of his way to shine the cinematic spotlight on the coming out pains still felt by many, in the American educational system of today. Only for all of its good intentions, it plays like a telemovie, being overly simplistic at times and often lacking key emotion at critical times. That said, Niklaus Lange steals the show as Todd Bentley, a straight man of the type that all gay men should have, whilst Linna Carter shines in her portrayal of a campus lesbian also getting to grips with her sexuality. And yet at its core are the pros and cons of a hidden gay relationship, one that climaxes by celluloid lovers Daniel Chilson as Griff and Don Handfield as Pete getting down to some man-on-man lip-service; albeit of the 'save the gay kiss till last' variety.

To some this may rank as a flaw, but to others it is but part of the films' charm. And of that, there is plenty to be had, in a work that at the end of the day delivers the sermon that homophobia has no place in education, let alone society. And for that alone, this ever so lightweight, but nonetheless entertaining feature has to be applauded, given it clearly has its cinematic heart in the right place!
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue
starring: Daniel Chilson, Niklaus Lange, Don Handfield, Linna Carter, Lesley Tesh, Ryan Tucker,
Seabass Diamond, Nick Fortunato Spano, Katrina Holden Bronson,
Nicki Lynn, Laura Fox, Kevin P Wright
Copyright 2004 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #022
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