LIKE IT ISNR
The banner of Queer Cinema has doubtless allowed several projects to be made that, with no such high concept to announce, would never have gotten beyond script development. Like It Is is the feature debut of Paul Oremland, a figure of fitful promise on the gay scene in London for several years. And its chief characteristic is to look like a compromise between several conflicting pressures.
Oremland has tried to steer the subject to a market wider than that of young, urban, homosexual men but broadly sympathetic to gay modes and manners. Had he stayed within the gay community, he might have produced a truer film, one shot in a more realist style with fewer cute boys and fewer attempts to set the story in crowd-pleasing settings. But then, he would have been unlikely to secure the participation of Roger Daltrey, a rock star on the world stage, or Dani Behr, a television face in Britain. With a much bigger budget, he might have brought off a more searing story with weightier performances, a stronger music track and more conventionally photogenic boys in the leads.
Either way, he needed more attention to the script. That the dialogue is perfunctory is of course emphasized by the uninflected delivery. But the story is as na™ve and arrogant as its leading character. This is only 'like it is' if you believe that a predatory milieu fed on casual sex, ready money and recreational drugs can be set on its ear by the arrival of a hick.
Craig is a bare-knuckle fighter and Steve Bell who plays him has been Britain's amateur featherweight boxing champion. He lives in Blackpool, a seaside town in the north of England that has long been the favorite resort for blue-collar workers. The town's long-established raunchy reputation has been extended in recent years to embrace the gay market in a big way. It's a curious place, then, for Craig to allow himself to be picked up by Matt from London (Ian Rose) and then to get a bad case of first-night nerves. Matt leaves, gallantly uncomplaining.
Under pressure from his promoter to fight a psychopath and from his brother Tony not to, Craig flees to London and seeks out Matt, much to the chagrin of Paula (Dani Behr). Matt is a coming force on the music scene and Paula, his roommate, is seemingly so successful as a disco diva that when a tabloid gets hold of her birth certificate, it is the day's lead.
Matt works for Kelvin (Roger Daltrey), a wicked but powerful entrepreneur whose interests run from nightclubs (for the income) to boy bands (for the grateful sex). Matt's talents-somewhat surprisingly in such a competitive field-embrace both night-to-night management of clubs and the promotion of major-league pop players, from soloists of a certain age to newly launched teen bands. Into this rather condensed version of the London scene, Craig steps at once apologetic and expecting all to fall at his feet. Matt indulges him without question. After a night dancing on Ecstasy, after which Craig wins his spurs by hot-wiring and stealing a car, they find themselves at a romantic lakeside spot at dawn. Craig is now ready to submit to Matt.
The rest of the story concerns the matter of whether-and to what effect in his professional life-Matt is 'in love' with Craig. When the token 'old bird' in the office (Jude Alderson) advises, 'You've got to talk to him, Matt,' the king of the clubs protests, 'No-that means talking about feelings and ... ' but he cannot finish the sentence. Each cheats.
Then, when Craig has flounced back to Blackpool, Matt burns his boats by dramatically deciding, on of all nights that of the opening of Kelvin's new club, to follow him. 'If you leave now,' Kelvin cries, 'there'll be nothing for you to come back to.' Lines like that had us on the edge of our seats when, say, Joan Crawford flung them at John Garfield, but here there is nothing at stake, nothing even in the movie's own terms real.
Daltrey is all naughty twinkles as the big bad queen, but it's not his fault that his bitchy ripostes aren't witty, nor that it's incredible that he would bother to manipulate so widely to counteract such a minimal threat. It's the film's weakness that it never creates a convincing world, its strength that it never has any need to explain or apologize for that world.
--W. Stephen Gilbert