Get Real

Eager to both please and educate, Get Real goes about its business with an earnest tunnel vision that's almost endearing. But it's mired in a fantasy that's become a regrettable staple of gay movies: sensitive, alienated boy falls for ostensibly straight hunk who—swoon—loves back. Beautiful Thing pulled off this wish-fulfilling premise thanks to its crazily romantic streak. Directed by Simon Shore and adapted by Patrick Wilde from his play, Get Real has broader coming-of-age issues on its mind, and clumsier ways of expressing them.

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The setting—suburban Basingstoke—is significantly posher than the South London flats of Beautiful Thing, though arguably more stifling. The protagonist, gangly 16-year-old Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone), is smart, reflective, and reasonably self-possessed—he clearly knows his way around a public toilet. (Shore plays a cruising scene for maximum cutesiness, scoring it to the Troggs' "Love Is All Around.") Steven's only confidante is his neighbor, Linda (Charlotte Brittain), who is, predictably, overweight and a source of comic relief. The fun starts when drooled-over jock John (Brad Gorton) turns out to be sexually confused, and open to suggestion: as Steven's feelings intensify, so do his frustrations at having to keep them private. He writes an anonymous coming-out manifesto, which sets up a very public, cathartic burst of truth-telling—hence the title. Which, in retrospect, makes most sense as an injunction to the well-intentioned but hopelessly glib filmmakers.

Wilde's script, which has a weakness for mild, snickering double entendres, is notable for its near-total reliance on archetypes. But, to be fair, Steven's predicament, for all its clichéd trappings, does ultimately feel real, and it's all down to Silverstone, a talented young actor who can effectively and economically convey surges of overwhelming, paradoxical emotion. It's as thoughtful and complex a performance as the setup allows, and by far the main reason to see the film.

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