The problem with good intentions is that you know exactly where they lead, and it’s rarely to anywhere as interesting as hell. Earnest messages burden the four gay short films collected in Boys to Men. In Crush, 12-year-old Tina learns that she can love 16-year-old Robbie even though he’s gay. Their friendship starts up naturally enough. They scissor the same open-shirted TV actor out of magazines. She plays piano, and he plays the flute. Enter Tim, age 15 and a half, who plays the flute, too. Tina repositions herself from aspiring lover to facilitator, and soon Robbie and Tim are smooching in the suburban Illinois night. Crush is sweet and likable, if mildly dishonest in its sentimentality.
But in The Mountain King, the sentimental dishonesty is egregious. The lesson here is that sex liberates, and to prove its point the movie resorts to the usual components of the gay porn imagination: straights who have gay sex, johns who are too handsome to have to pay for it. On a beach, a man strips to his boxers to read some Dreiser. Along comes a lanky, unshaven hustler, showily tossing pebbles into the ocean. Soon they are exchanging leaden dialogue (“I don’t know, my asshole’s still kind of sore”; “Mine isn’t”), dancing to Edvard Grieg, and swapping outfits.
In . . . lost, a brief morality tale, two men trick bareback. One eyes the clock, not because he’s impatient to have a montage sequence with another gentleman caller but because he needs to take his HIV medication. Finally, in The Confession, a dying Roman Catholic asks his domestic partner of 35 years to fetch him a priest. But his boyfriend has no patience for established religion. Director Carl Pfirman enjoys imagining the details of elderly gay domesticity (the sick man punctuates an argument by clapping off his sound-activated bedside lamp). The conflict between the lovers is interesting, and if Pfirman had conveyed more of the warmth that holds the men together, the film might have been moving.