Article Title:50 Ways of Saying Fabulous
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:3rd June 2005 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:758
Text:50 WAYS OF SAYING FABULOUS Dir: Stewart Main New Zealand, 2004 35mm, 90 mins There are moments of a gay childhood that ring so true in 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous it hurts. It's a milestone in Kiwi cinema; an accessible story with heart that wears that organ on its sleeve, yet doesn't resort to pat crowd-pleasing resolutions or pretension. Perhaps most excitingly, it's a milestone for local LGBT cinema, which up until now has remained largely underground. The story is set in the hot, dry summer of 1975 in central Otago, and centres around 13-year-old Billy, a plump outsider prone to daydreams and fantasies as he comes to terms with his sexuality in a time when no-one can define the word "poofter", but every kid knows what it means – and it usually involves kids like Billy who like to say "fabulous". The colours of the landscape are rich and vibrant, leaping off the screen with the aid of some flawless digital enhancement. Authentically 1970's in every manner right down to the costumes, hairdos and shooting style, 50 Ways captures a rarity in New Zealand cinema, a snapshot of rural Kiwi life that isn't bleakly sinister or unnaturally harmonious. Performances from the young cast are uniformly excellent. Andrew Patterson as Billy puts in a brave and bolshy turn as a boy who is often physically at the butt of everyone's joke, even his best friend, the rugby-playing tomboy Louisa. However, even Billy isn't quite as reviled as newcomer Roy, a quiet gawky gay kid desperate to befriend Billy. Roy has a place on the throne of the eternal loser at every Kiwi school, past and present – but just like the reject from your own childhood, will there be nasty consequences when he is pushed a little bit too far? Billy's charmingly-executed fantasies of starring in a B-grade 1950's sci-fi show with Lou will fade into the background with the entrance of Jamie, a sexy young farmhand who also says "fabulous", but appearances are deceptive, particularly when you're a 13-year-old making assumptions. Billy will take every opportunity to get closer to Jamie, in a series of face-clenching peek-through-the-fingers moments for the gay viewer. Cue jealousy from Lou and the volatile nature of childhood friendships, with allegiances that change more often than the guard at Buckingham Palace. And what coming of age story would be complete without the school bully? He's there in fine form, just daring you to reach into the screen and smack him in the head like you should have done twenty years ago. In a story whose only distractions are a score that's perhaps a little too cutesy and an accent from farmhand Jamie that slips between Northland Maori and Ockerspeak, I don't think it's a spoiler to let you know that Billy does prevail through his journey, because that's not important. What is important is the film's main takeout message – growing up gay may not be easy, but with the unique perspective on the world it gives you, it ain't all that bad either. Chris Banks - 3rd June 2005    
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