Film Review: The Geography ClubThis sappy plea for gay acceptance has its heart in the right place, but its execution is ham-handed.
Closeted teen Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart) finds his furtive dreams coming true when he strikes up a secret relationship with, of all people, Kevin (Justin Deeley), popular, blond and his school's quarterback. They meet in the shadows, but are discovered intimately bonding by a classmate, Min (Ally Maki). She takes it upon herself to invite Russell to join her "Geography" Club, which is code for a clandestine gay-support group. Russell balks at first, but soon learns that, with his school's intensely homophobic atmosphere, he has more in common with this small group of misfits than he realized.
"Well-meaning" is about the best one can say about The Geography Club. Director Gary Entin, with a screenplay by Edmund Entin based on Brent Hartinger's best-seller, takes on the hot topic of school bullying, but, in their awkward hands, the entire enterprise feels not only somewhat passé but also bogus. I'm sure there have been cases somewhere of supposedly ultra-straight jocks falling for some scared fellow student who is nothing like them, but the filmmakers push this improbability further by not only having Russell join the football team, but excel in it to the point where he scores the crucial winning touchdown at a big game which must be the most unconvincing ever in a feature film. This is followed up by having the two steal a thrilling, if highly improbable, post-game kiss on the way to the locker room, a particularly queasy wish fulfillment. I didn't believe their relationship for a second, and this was not helped by the fact that Deeley looks to be about 28, at least.
The film may purport to be all about queer sensitivity, but racially it's decidedly less so. Why cast a black actor to play the most thuggish gay tormentor on campus, and have his every stupid remark jocularly met with the epithet "Retard!"? Did both of the interchangeable actresses who have the biggest female parts—playing "love interest" for Russell and his straight pal Gunnar (Andrew Caldwell)—have to be the typical blondes we see in every straight-oriented film? And then there's the noxiousness of having the Geography Club, whose members are p.c.-conveniently comprised of an Asian, a black and the obligatory fat lesbian (about whom we learn very little), gratefully turn to great young white "father" Russell for his sage counsel in the climactic moments which see them throwing off their anonymity and welcoming scores of other undetected gays into their fold. You wonder where did they all magically come from and who are they? But they really serve no more purpose than as random window-dressing for the none-too-interesting principles.
Russell commits a particularly heinous act when he conforms and joins in on the cruel tormenting of a nerdy cellist and club member, Brian (Teo Olivares, overdoing the martyred bit), but then is somehow completely forgiven by Brian, who is luckily provided with a benevolence that is nothing short of Christ-like. Under these circumstances, the actors are nothing more than hapless pawns of the shoddily obvious material, although Caldwell manages to come up with some freshness as overweight Gunnar (who somehow lands the school hottie, and is strictly in the clichéd line of "stout friend" dating back to the Hardy Boys' Chet.)