Turning the tables on the traditional hustling narrative, writer and director Joseph Graham has gone out of his way to breathe fresh air into what had frankly become, a stale format.
For cue the life and times of an agent of desire, that of a handsome, chameleon styled young man who on one stormy night comes to have as many clients, as he has different names and personas. And it all began with a routine trick. Routine for him that is, not for the John Doe in question, given his last gay encounter took place in his Soviet days. Now living in America, this almost virginal Russian is taken aback by the caring nature of this hustler with a difference, one who doesn’t mind taking his time, even having a cuddle or a dance along the way, before sex beckons and an exit thereafter, cash in hand fashion.
Only which corridor leads to the way out, in a labyrinth of an apartment building that repeatedly leads him to his next trick? That of scene cokehead Leon who knows him as deep throat Eddie and whose best friend Jacob, Raphael Barker of Shortbus credit, gets to know whether this hustling boy lives up to his title. And then there’s David; a proud hetero with a wife and child, but who's up for a spot of hanky-panky, with a difference. Then there’s Sam; an older man who fought for gay rights in the ’70s and who's still on the front line when it counts. Finally there’s writer Gary; a lonely soul in need of some creative inspiration and not the kind found at Leon’s cocaine-fuelled parties. All have their desires; all have their needs. But what about the hustler himself? Does he really know the man behind the sexual mask?
With a cast largely confined to their individual scenes, this seductive piece has an episodic feel to it, that of a set of short stories linked solely by way of the leading man. All have their merits, even if the last two are the most rewarding, as Paul Gerrior as Sam and Nick Frangione as Gary give wonderful performances in tales that touch upon issues of the heart. That Ben Bonenfant as a young man intent on bringing pleasure to the world, for a price that is, has the ability to make total strangers open up to his empathic like personality, reflects in the beauty of Matthew Boyd’s photography and the stunning attention to the light and shade of the piece, attributes that belie its modest budget.
For unlike many a work of the like of John Palmer’s Sugar, this is a hustling tale devoid of a descent into a drug addicted hell. Rather here the issues of sexual honesty, physical company and love and romance are to be found between all of the simulated orgasmic faces to be had. Add in the odd mythological symbol, Shakespearean lines together with male nudity, albeit not of the explicit variety and you get a film detailing the life changing experiences of a pay to play youth who finally comes-of-age. An eroticised look at finding your inner soul, indeed.
available on DVD as part of the TLA Releasing UK catalogue 17.01.2011 / US 07.12.2010
starring: Ben Bonenfant / The Hustler, Nick Frangione / Gary, Paul Gerrior / Sam, Carlo D'Amore / Leon,
Artem Mishin / John, Raphael Barker / Jacob, Michael Klinger / David, John Keirnan / Tommy,
Katherine Celio / David’s Wife Susan, Michael Vega / Sexy Man, Michael Carlisi / Gypsy
Troubadour and Don Seaver, Mia Paschal and Sharon Camhi as the Gypsy Band.