Four Doesn’t Quite Add Up


With its glum, suburban Fourth of July setting, Four aches be a tragedy about identity crisis in America (young homosexuals terrified to come out, black girls teased for seeming too white). But the film, adapted by director Joshua Sanchez from Christopher Shinn’s 2002 play, never achieves its intended weightiness. It’s merely about two lustful yet gentle adult predators who know what they want, and their younger, more reticent prey, who don’t. Straying husband Joe (The Wire‘s Wendell Pierce), who’s secretly gay, tries in vain to loosen up fiercely closeted teenager June (Emory Cohen), whom he met on the Internet. That Joe’s wife in an invalid, and his frequent straying leaves her in the care of his adolescent daughter, Abigayle (Aja Naomi King), gives him no shame. Joe wants to imbue June with the same confidence, but June’s fear proves impenetrable. Meanwhile, across town, the equally indecisive Abigayle alternately flirts with and mocks a happy-go-lucky half-white, half-Latino lothario (E.J. Bonilla). Sanchez knows how to stir up sexual tension—the jittery camera burrows with simultaneous relish and trepidation into the sweaty faces of the film’s two seducers, and he manages a fairly erotic cross-cutting sex sequence. There’s a wrenching moment or two (particularly Joe’s soliloquy about how the AIDS epidemic inadvertently united gay men). But Four ultimately fails to link its two stories with any trenchancy, mainly because June and Abigayle register as angry, taciturn blanks; they’re never remotely as interesting as their pursuers. The more Four strives for thematic resonance, the smaller it becomes.