'Fourth Man Out': Outfest Review

Jon Gabrus, Parker Young, Evan Todd and Chord Overstreet in 'Fourth Man Out'
Innocuous in the extreme

Three blue-collar beer buddies learn to accept and support their fresh-out-of-the-closet gay friend in Andrew Nackman's debut, which features Chord Overstreet of 'Glee' and Kate Flannery of 'The Office.'

A gay auto mechanic comes out to his straight buddies in Fourth Man Out, but the shortage of dramatic texture, psychological insight or credible sexual tension in this toothless brom-com means he might as well be telling them he has a cold. This is one of those movies in which the protagonist's profession serves only to reinforce his lack of perceived homo-normative behavior, while the other characters are not even given jobs or identities to distinguish them from cookie-cutter stock figures. Light years from the edge of New Queer Cinema, this is the kind of vanilla material that suggests there's a creative downside to the mainstreaming of gay culture.

Directed with bland efficiency by Andrew Nackman and written with minimum wit or authenticity by Aaron Dancik — marking the first feature for both — the film is set in a sleepy upstate New York town. Establishing shots of industrial sites along the Hudson River, churches, the local football field, and suburban streets lined with American flags adorning modest homes set the scene as an ordinary blue-collar community.

Birthday boy Adam (Evan Todd) is turning 24 and has decided today's the day to break the news to his pals that he's gay, starting with longtime best friend Chris (Parker Young). But that slick womanizer is so intent on breaking Adam's "cold streak" and getting him laid that the big revelation doesn't happen until the woozy morning after their drunken night on the town. Chris promptly throws up, then segues to confusion, struggling to reconcile Adam's history with girls, beer blasts and reconditioning car engines. But he reassures him, "Nothing's gonna change between us."

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Awkwardness swiftly creeps in during poker night and while watching the hockey match, however, especially as their buddies Ortu (Jon Gabrus) and Nick (Chord Overstreet), fellow members of a garage band, insist on making lame "cover your butt" jokes. Adam claims to be inured to their sophomoric wisecracks, but in truth, the film's conflicts are so diluted that even when these guys are being jerks their behavior seems a watered-down version of straight insensitivity.

Dancik's script attempts to play with the fact that Chris, Ortu and Nick know a lot more about supposed "gay stuff" than inexperienced Adam, who's clueless about how to meet guys. But the strained humor of straight dudes exhibiting girlfriend behavior is a long way from the unselfconscious charms of, say, the Magic Mike movies.

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Chris is in an open relationship with hard-edged Jessica (Jordan Lane Price), but he's drawn to the more elusive Tracy (Jennifer Damiano), who calls him out on his self-centeredness, reminding him what a big step it was for Adam to come out to him. The rest of the movie becomes about Chris attempting to help Adam score some action and open up to his parents, while rallying the guys to be cool about it. There's also the usual predictable panic when Adam confuses Chris' closeness for attraction.

Dancik's observations are so superficial that Adam's affirmation of his sexual identity for a long time feels secondary to whether or not Chris will ditch abrasive Jessica and hook up with Tracy. And to make that switch even more schematic, Jess has an obnoxious gay friend while Tracy hangs out with her nice-guy brother and his perfect boyfriend. 

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Family scenes, mostly focused on Adam's interaction with his mother (Kate Flannery of The Office), provide more comforting platitudes than genuine emotion. But that's infinitely preferable to the jarring sitcom bits with a shrill Christian neighbor (Brooke Dillman), who starts out trying to fix up Adam with her niece, then reels at the discovery there are homosexuals in her midst. She eventually relaxes — but the scene that softens her views is crucially missing. Tonal inconsistency is a problem, nowhere more so than when Adam makes the mistake of ordering nachos on a date, sabotaging a promising romance with his uncontrollable farting. Yeesh.

Dancik and Nackman steer things to a resolution of sorts at a Fourth of July barbecue. But while Todd and Parker are likeable actors, there's just nothing sufficiently compelling about these characters to get us invested in their outcomes.

Chris, Ortu and Nick, in particular, just seem like standard-issue comedy stereotypes, with Gabrus filling the chubby gonzo role in the Jack Black or Josh Gad mode, and Overstreet as the jokester doofus. The Glee heartthrob appears to be playing down that image with dark hair, a scruffy beard and a flannel shirt that never comes off. But honey, grab that L'Oreal Paris Excellence Blonde Supreme Creme and slip back into a tank top while there's still time.

Cast: Evan Todd, Parker Young, Chord Overstreet, Jon Gabrus, Kate Flannery, Brooke Dillman, Jennifer Damiano, Jordan Lane Price, Alex Rennie, Jake Epstein, Doug Moe, Laura Harrier, Nick Clark
Production companies: Lauren & Lauren, Jed Entertainment, in association with Tait Productions
Director: Andrew Nackman
Screenwriter: Aaron Dancik
Producers: Lauren Avinoam, Lauren Hogarth, Jed Mellick
Executive producers: David LaHorgue, Katie Leary
Director of photography: Damian Horan
Production designer: Maria Dirolf
Costume designer: Alex Simone
Music: Herman Beeftink
Editor: Michael P. Shawver
Casting: Karlee Fomalont, Erica Hart

No rating, 86 minutes.