Opens: Friday, Oct. 17 (Regent Releasing)
With gay marriage again on the ballot and in the news in several states, “Tru Loved,” which features a lesbian wedding during its climactic scene, is undeniably timely. Unfortunately, it also happens to be consistently clunky. The main issue is actually that perennial story of gay and straight teenagers struggling to co-exist in a hostile high school environment. Displaying a true rainbow coalition of sexual and ethnic diversity, the film is earnest, good humored, and utterly pedestrian. It may draw eager gay audiences in a few cities but has no chance of making a blip on the national box office radar screen.
Tru (Najarra Townsend) moves with her two lesbian moms (Alexandra Paul and Cynda Williams) to a new high school in the San Fernando Valley. She strikes up a friendship with Lodell (Matthew Thompson), a closeted black football player, and is motivated to form a student gay-straight alliance to try to fight the discrimination she sees. Eventually she finds love with a sensitive senior (Jake Abel), who is being raised by a gay uncle (comedy writer Bruce Vilanch).
While it's true that even in a Southern California high school, coming out is probably harder for a black athlete than for many other students, the film is inconsistent in its portrayal of prejudice. Since black, white, and Hispanic students pal around together without hesitation, the school's extreme homophobia seems a bit exaggerated. Writer-director Stewart Wade fails to bring much verisimilitude to his awkwardly staged scenes of teen angst. Wade even attempts a few fantasy scenes-like a musical interlude inspired by “West Side Story”-that are almost endearing in their ineptitude. While Wade occasionally tosses off a wickedly witty line-”I didn't say I'd be your Katie Holmes,” Tru protests to the hypocritical Lodell-his dramaturgy is primitive.
Townsend's likability is the film's primary asset, and Thompson and Abel both demonstrate the requisite charm. Veteran performers like Paul, Williams, Jasmine Guy, and Nichelle Nichols do what they can with dimly written roles. The photography and sound quality are ragged. We might be more accepting of the budget limitations if only the script had more subtlety and flair.
Cast: Najarra Townsend, Matthew Thompson, Jake Abel, Alexandra Paul, Cynda Williams, Nichelle Nichols, Jasmine Guy, Bruce Vilanch.
Director-Screenwriter: Stewart Wade.
Producers: Antonio Brown, Stewart Wade, David Avallone.
Executive producers: Eric Borsum, Eric Miller, Philip Au, William Mark Bonney, S. Eugene, Marjorie Margolis, Gary Snow, Darren Iverson.
Director of photography: Howard Wexler.
Production designer: James J. Agazzi.
Music: Barry Coffing.
Costume designer: Augusta.
Editor: David Avallone.
Rated PG-13, 102 minutes.