A Gay “Formula Movie” Levels The Playing Field


A “formula movie” is a standard-issue flick that unabashedly retreads a familiar plotline.

It generally has a setup, a dramatic turning point, a revelation, a climax, and an ending, and as the train chugs along, you can pretty much see the wheels turning.

The Green — co-starring this week’s column subject, Cheyenne Jackson — is one of those movies.

It’s about — SPOILER ALERT — an apparently decent person who does something that’s interpreted as inappropriate, leading to the potential collapse of his entire world, especially when an age-old secret leaps out of the closet and makes everyone wonder even more about his integrity.

By the end, though, the guy’s image is restored and his loved one unequivocally adores him again, though naturally they’re a tiny bit shaken.

Pretty familiar stuff — except when you add the fact that in this case, the loved one happens to be a man. In other words, the Steve Williford-directed film, written by Paul Marcarelli, gives new life to the story of a couple encountering hellish accusations in suburbia by making them gay.

As the film tackles the controversial interaction of a teacher (Jason Butler Harner) with a troubled student (Chris Bert), the result is earnest, with a lot of expected emotional fireworks and repercussions.

What’s more, the classroom setting underlines a whole other kind of familiarity because The Children’s Hour, Oleanna, The History Boys, and Spinning Into Butter have already provided “Did the educator do the right thing?” melodramas set amid the sociopolitical landscape of the educational system.

But there’s a solid cast working hard to make this fresh. Harner — who was great as the crazy guy in Clint Eastwood’s Changeling — is a refreshingly off-center leading man, and Illeana Douglas has a strong turn as his sister who’s struggling with cancer as well as with the pressure to always say the right thing. And again, the lead characters are gay, OK? (Jackson delivers as Harner’s longtime lover.)

Best of all, the film doesn’t hide the crucial scene from us the way so many such movies do, just to manipulatively keep us guessing as to who’s guilty.

But despite deviations from the formula, it’s still a formula film, and I’d be green if I didn’t warn you about that.

The Green is available on VOD starting tomorrow and will be out on DVD next month.

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