Film Review: Turtle Hill, Brooklyn

The dreariest party ever filmed. Don’t bother to RSVP.

It’s the 30th birthday of Will (Brian W. Seibert), and his many, many friends are arriving at his Brooklyn home to celebrate it. But things get off to a rocky start when his homophobic sister Molly (Jeanne Slater) pops up unexpectedly and discovers for the first time that not only is he gay, but he has a live-in lover, Mateo (Ricardo Valdez). Compounding things is the horrific fact that Will never told Mateo that he had not come out to his family.

Seibert and Valdez, who co-produced and wrote Turtle Hill, Brooklyn, obviously intended it to be a very warm and fuzzy examination of love, friendship and personal bravery. Unfortunately, as the various invitees enter—a motley yet high-achieving and, of course, scrupulously liberal-minded group consisting of artists, a doctor, the politically inclined and even a CPA—all you can think of is that old adage about how better it is to have fewer and better friends, quality over quantity. Given the awkward scripting and Ryan Gielen’s unsubtle, often literally in-your-face helming, the characters gratingly come across as preening, self-satisfied and fairly obnoxious, with one exception.

That exception is Mateo’s friend Luis (Ariel Bonilla), who is over menial jobs and treatment in New York and wants to return to Mexico. The scenes between the two of them are filmed in Spanish, and these are the only times when the acting does not seem insufferably arch, if not inept. Otherwise, we are subjected to one of Will’s friends commandeering a video camera and thrusting it into the guests’ faces to record their birthday wishes, a clumsy movie gambit which always comes across as forced.

A Log Cabin Republican shows up, which gives Will the narcissistic chance to get on his self-righteous soapbox; attacking this poor dolt is akin to shooting fish in a barrel, given the general milieu. However, by this point the viewer may be so turned off to the whole thing that all he may wonder about is what a bad host Will is being.

Will’s sister returns to spit more vituperation at him and leave, which is excruciatingly followed by all the guests literally lining up to give him a supportive hug. (At this point the movie’s “eew” factor explodes.) The oldest guest, a gay man who admits to being a doddering 57 among these fedora-sporting, zero-percent-body-fat youngsters, gets all mushy and cringe-inducingly announces how much he loves everyone present. (“I don’t know what I’d do without you guys!”)

It also arises that Mateo has cheated on Will with one of the guests, actually a trainer at Will’s gym, who comes off as the sleazy villain of the piece, practically twirling his hipster goatee. We are then put through the torturous paces of the couple’s confrontation, heartbreak, and queasy reconciliation by the ambiguous wind-up, with them in bed while that endless, dreary party is probably still going on outside. You wish Tracey Ullman would suddenly appear and, in the manner in which she used to close her TV show, scream, “Go home!”