Sex doesn’t seem to offer much emotional fulfillment for the characters in Beautiful Something, Joseph Graham’s (Strapped) drama set during a chilly Philadelphia evening. Depicting the often erotically charged interactions among four gay men and assorted friends and lovers, the pic has a bleakness that belies its title.
The term is used by an older man, Bob (John Lescault), a wealthy Los Angeles talent agent who cruises the streets in his white limousine looking for talent of one kind or another. The other characters figuring in the rambling storyline are Brian (Brian Sheppard), a poet struggling with writer’s block who’s facing a deadline and is desperate for human contact; Drew (Fear the Walking Dead‘s Colman Domingo), a successful, career-obsessed sculptor; and Jim (Zack Ryan), Drew’s much younger live-in lover and artistic muse who feels neglected by him and is eager to pursue an acting career. As this film would have it, everyone who’s gay works in the arts.
In between bouts of torrid sex, the men engage in the sort of anguished, confessional conversations that Eugene O’Neill would find over-the-top. None of the characters are particularly interesting, even with the dramatic revelations they’ve been assigned, such as Bob’s former lover having died in Vietnam or Brian confessing his love to his straight friend with whom he once had a brief affair.
The film has a distinctly old-fashioned vibe — there’s no swiping on Grindr here — and a general air of gloom that makes it very slow going. The actors do what they can with their often schematic characters — Lescault makes the most vivid impression, but then again, he has the most stinging lines — but are ultimately unable to bring life to the static proceedings. To its credit, Beautiful Something has none of the campiness that afflicts so many gay-themed films. But it’s also a lot less fun.
Distributor: Ariztical Entertainment
Production: Reel Goode Productions, AltarBoy Productions
Cast: Brian Sheppard, Colman Domingo, Zack Ryan, John Lescault, Carlo D’Amore, Grant Lancaster
Director-screenwriter: Joseph Graham
Producer: Kelly A. Burkhardt
Executive producers: Kelly A. Burkhardt, Grey Sample
Director of photography: Matthew Boyd
Production designer: Claire Hart Joslyn
Editor: Sharon Franklin
Not rated, 92 minutes