a film by Adam Salky
2009 | 92 mins | US
›› Dare
a bittersweet take on adolescent yearnings.
Dare by Adam Salky Fans of the 2005 short film Dare will no doubt delight in this, its feature length outing. Yet be warned, for this bittersweet take on adolescent yearnings is far removed to what its sweet styled short may otherwise have implied.

As Alexa Walker knows only too well. An aspiring actress going no where, she is soon to be upstaged in the school play by Johnny, the local bad boy with a couldn’t care less attitude to learning his lines, but whose raw potential is clear to one and all. In particular in the eyes of Grant Matson; an ex-student turned celebrated actor who bluntly informs Alexa that she doesn’t have a future treading the boards. That is, unless she injects her own life experiences into her work. With none to draw upon, Alexa turns the tables on herself, in the process casting aside her Goody Two-Shoes image by getting up close and personal with the manly charms of her leading man. Not that her unique approach to method acting does her any favours with her best friend Ben; the school misfit, lighting technician and a shy gay boy only too keen to help Johnny with his lines, in exchange for the opportunity to, how you say - sample his hospitality. Only just what does Johnny want in return? And is he going to get more than he bargained for in this manipulative ménage à trois?

Dare by Adam Salky With splendid performances from the principal cast and in particular by Zach Gilford as the sexually wise, or perhaps not, school jock, this is a film that at first could be viewed as nothing more than a spirited take on the Beverly Hills, 90210 teen drama scenario, given it charts the coming-of-age stories of three high school seniors and I do mean seniors.

Yet this is actually a far deeper work, that of a trio of interconnected stories that culminate in a dark look at what some people will dare to do to achieve their goals; career, sexual or otherwise. Only here, I would have preferred more meat on my cinematic bone, if simply to have allowed Golden Globe nominated Emmy (The Phantom of the Opera) Rossum to have had more time to showcase her characters’ transformation. That Johnny is but a panic attack prone youth whose outer bravado masks an achingly lonely heart, lacking the love of a step mother and the presence of a father, forever longing for a true friend to tell his thoughts to, as opposed to having to pay for the privilege, is all but clear. It is a need that finds him delighting in his new found friendship with Alexa and Ben. Yet it is also a love that is blind, that of a journey on the road of life that is but destined for a head on crash. Although as to who will come out smiling from the emotional wreckage; well that would be saying.

What can be said, is that director Adam Salky together with screenwriter and co-producer David Brind have gleefully retained the seductive swimming pool scene from the short, albeit with a few narrative changes, with Adam Fleming aka the original Ben seen here in the cameo role of a detention teacher. Only in daring to push their sexual boundaries, the sex scenes it has to be said, hardly qualify for the description, being filmed strictly from the waist up, if not of the clothes on variety, being in effect a reflection of the teenage first time experience. Nevertheless, this is a well-executed piece, with Salky and Brind to be congratulated for having successfully made the short-to-feature transition that frankly, is something of a rarity in itself. Need more be said?

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - strictly from the waist up. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue: 31.01.2011 / UK.
screened as part of the 24th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2010.
starring: Emmy Rossum / Alexa Walker, Zach Gilford / Johnny Drake, Ashley Springer / Ben Berger,
Ana Gasteyer / Ruth Berger, Rooney Mara / Courtney and with Sandra Bernhard as Therapist,
Dr Serena Mohr and Alan Cumming as celebrated actor, Grant Matson.
cameo appearances by Adam Fleming as The Detention Teacher
and screenwriter David Brind as Nick.
Copyright 2010 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #350
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