Film Review: Dream Boat

Sometimes, despite the pumping music, cute outfits and a definite party going on, being gay isn’t really very gay at all.
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This writer has been on exactly one gay cruise in his entire life, and had the time of his life, although he embarked with some serious trepidation. Why? Because I felt that it would be exactly like the experience shared by the five men who pull focus in Tristan Ferland Milewski’s documentary about one such shipboard adventure, namely a sea of frenetic, drunk and drugged-out homosexuals only concerned with dancing their asses off and schtupping themselves silly. Apart from one quite terrifying poolside encounter with a gaggle of gay geese who literally were having an extended conversation regarding their individual percentages of body fat, I surprisingly met a wide and international range of interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Such people are not to be found anywhere in Dream Boat, aboard a 2,386-passenger ship making the voyage from Lisbon to the Canary Islands. But I am sure there were some fascinating, cultured, talented, witty and emotionally mature gents on the cruise who did not subscribe to the gay-clone lifestyle, with its weirdly conflicting equal emphasis on working out to get the body into shape and then throwing all kinds of drugs into said body, not to mention the rampant unprotected sex which occurs, especially since the anti-AIDS drug Prep came on the market.

The problem here is Milewski’s perceived agenda, which seems to be putting forth a distinctly retro image of gays as chronically lonely, depressed, deeply unfulfilled, lost and very sad souls, living embodiments of that pre-Stonewall dirge by Tommy Wolfe and Fran Landesman, “The Ballad of the Sad Young Men,” which sadists would play on the jukeboxes of gay bars for last call.

The subjects this director deems fit for perusal are Marek, a Polish personal trainer with the kind of handsome, macho face and form which make him just about everybody’s type. Unfortunately, he often feels like a popular piece of meat and just wants one true love in his life. On the physically opposite side of the spectrum from him is Dipankar, a stout little Indian who realizes all too clearly the lower rung he occupies on the sexually desirable scale (which doesn’t prevent him from throwing on tight party ensembles and haughtily dancing alone as if that’s the most natural thing in the world, although inside he’s screamingly depressed). French Philippe is in a wheelchair as a result of meningitis, but there’s life in the old boy yet as he ponders what it would be like to somehow hook up with a hottie if only his partner weren’t with him. Palestinian Ramzi experienced homophobic persecution in his homeland and now lives in Belgium with his partner. Martin is 42 and HIV-positive but more than game to shake his booty any way he can.

And they’re all so unengaging, shallow and dull! None of them has anything really engaging to talk about—“All one needs here is a good dick and good ass!”—so the director fills in the gaps with endless shots of hundreds of writhing, sweaty bohunks in a bewildering assemblage of jockstraps, thongs and the very shortest of short shorts. (By far the most interesting, sadly telling cinematography in the film is a high overhead shot looking down on the suntan area near the top of the ship that is completely covered in used condoms.) At times, the film almost reads like a diatribe against this lifestyle, not a celebration of it by any means. Indeed, it threw me back to one of the lowest periods of my life, the summer I spent on Fire Island, the renowned gay beach community off Long Island. I, like so many other eager 20-year-olds before and after me, was dazzled by the gorgeous seaside scenery, as well as the sea of gorgeous men. But the shallow, bitchy behavior, surfeit of drugs, booze and feckless random pre-AIDS sex in which people were treated like used tissues and, yes, the desperate loneliness I felt though surrounded by my so-called brothers in arms, actually made me think, “If this is what it’s really like, I don’t want to be gay.”

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