The Skinny: Film Review
June 8 (TSBB Releasing)
Jussie Smollett, Blake Young-Fountain, Anthony Burrell, Shanika Warren-Markland
Patrik-Ian Polk’s feature film tells the story of five black gay Brown University classmates reuniting for NYC’s Gay Pride weekend.
Few films deal with black gay characters in anything but the skimpiest of terms, so for many Patrik-Ian Polk’s The Skinny will come as a revelation. This indie effort depicting a few days in the lives of five Brown University graduates reuniting for NYC’s Gay Pride weekend depicts its milieu with unflinching candor and enough detailed information to practically give it the air of an instructional video.
Indeed, there will probably be some audience members not particularly eager to hear detailed instructions about the sort of extensive colon cleansing necessary for preparing to “get your cakes pounded.”
The episodic storyline mainly concerns the love lives of the various characters, including, among others: Magnus (Jussie Smollett), whose boyfriend Ryan (Dustin Ross) refuses to have sex with him for six months but is actually harboring a secret life; lesbian Langston (Shanika Warren-Markland), who can’t quite seem to connect with a sexy bartender (Jennia Frederique) despite her obvious receptiveness; and the naïve Sebastian, whose desperate pining for the promiscuous Kyle (Anthony Burrell) has fateful consequences when he is sexually assaulted after unwittingly taking Ecstasy at a nightclub.
The profusion of characters and subplots proves overwhelming at times, with writer/director (and virtually everything else on the film) Polk apparently not terribly interested in keeping up the pace. He does, however, seem intent on providing a primer on virtually every aspect of being gay, including detailed discussions about such issues as sexual violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and picking the right condom size. There’s also no shortage of torrid encounters featuring the hunky, frequently unclothed actors.
On the plus side, the irreverently graphic dialogue is frequently amusing (during a pilgrimage to author Langston Hughes’ townhouse, one character remarks, “Can you imagine all the dick he must have gotten up here in Harlem?”), the large ensemble deliver mainly endearing performances and the tech elements are solid despite the obvious budget.
Opens: June 8 (TSBB Releasing)
Production: Tall Skinny Black Boys Productions
Cast: Jussie Smollett, Blake Young-Fountain, Anthony Burrell, Shanika Warren-Markland, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, Jennia Frederique, Robb Sherman, Dustin Ross, Joshua Cruz, Wilson Cruz, B. Scott
Director/screenwriter/producer/editor/music: Patrik-Ian Polk
Director of photography: Eun-ah Lee
Production designer: Lisa Green
Costume designer: Joe Exclusive
No rating, 100 min.