Article Title:Poster Boy
Author or Credit:Chris Banks
Published on:5th June 2005 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:760
Text:POSTER BOY Dir: Zak Tucker USA, 2004 DVD, 97mins Poster Boy isn't so much a movie as a thinly-disguised party political broadcast, heavy-handed and sloppily constructed, which is a shame given the promising-sounding premise – a gay son of an ultra-conservative US senator campaigning on "family values" is bullied into helping endorse his dad's campaign. Conflict will ensue, says the screenwriting manual. There are several problems here, which I will take the time to explain – it's going to involve a few spoilers, so if you want a virginal viewing experience stop reading now. Jack Kray, the evil senator, has no redeeming features. He's a nasty conservative bully with no firm principles, a cartoon figure. There's absolutely no sense of what drives this man, why his principles motivate him so strongly. A need to be in power and have control over others, apparently. OK. But why? Kray is described as the "Nazi of North Carolina", but even Hitler had principles. He wasn't gassing Jews just to get votes, he had a whole twisted train of logic behind it. Kray is merely a pantomime villain for the gay male audience to boo at. And what is it about Kray that keeps his wife in line? She's a strong-willed Southern woman. Surely she'd draw the line at her husband physically assaulting their son over dinner (as happens in an early scene) to cajole him into introducing his dad at a campaign rally? She doesn't even look concerned as she sips her wine, yet she seems to have no problem walking out on her husband at the end of the film, when the son has embarrassed his father in a spectacular public outing scene – the movie's only effective moment, eliciting cheers from the audience. With no established character arc whatsoever, it's a big zero for Mum on the scoreboard too. Then there's Henry, the son. He's a big, strapping lad who should have no problems knocking Dad's head off. How come he sits there and takes it at dinner? What has he got to lose by telling his dad to get knotted? Surely he has Dad over a barrel – if he comes out, he completely undercuts the “family values” platform, and even if he did, it's not in Dad's best interests to cut his well-educated son off because it would make him look even worse. Henry displays no qualities that explain his weak behaviour, and there's no real motivation for his big coming-out stunt at the end. Perhaps activist Anthony is supposed to be the catalyst. This is the bloke who, one imagines, is supposed to the agent of change for Henry, making him realise that he must stand up to his father. Unfortunately, their interaction amounts to only a shag and a subsequent coffee. If Anthony's that effective in small doses, perhaps we should fly him over, give him a big packet of Bushells, and send him down to Parliament to shag United Future. Most annoyingly, the story is told in flashback, framed by a series of scenes in the present where Henry talks to a journalist, which makes no sense as the movie employs multiple points of view, including a pointless subplot about Anthony's HIV+ girl-friend. These scenes serve two purposes: (a) to paper over the cracks in the inadequate screenwriting by explaining the plot of scenes we've just watched, and (b) for Henry to make grandstanding, cliched speeches about homosexuality (including an answer to the perennial favourite "why have you never slept with a woman?") and the expedient nature of politics. I was waiting for a caption reading "The Madness Must Stop! Vote Nader". Worse still, one of these scenes is used to end the movie and resolve literally all of the loose ends with two lines of dialogue. Why didn't Henry just do that in the beginning? We could have all gone home then and rented “Bear Cops 4” instead. At least then we could be assured there'd be no sex scenes staged in the dark. Chris Banks - 5th June 2005    
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