Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2013. RabbitBandini Productions. Screenplay by Travis Mathews. Cinematography by Samantha Barrows, Seana Carroll, James Franco, Travis Mathews, Keith Wilson. Produced by James Franco, Travis Mathews, Iris Torres, Keith Wilson. Music by Santiago Latorre. Production Design by Liz Phillips. Costume Design by Lane Stewart. Film Editing by Travis Mathews.
In order to avoid an X rating from the MPAA, William Friedkin’s controversial (and, quite frankly, awful) 1980 thriller Cruising had forty minutes of footage cut from its running time. Thirty-odd years later, James Franco and filmmaker Travis Mathews have attempted to film what they think the forty minutes could possibly be. The original Al Pacino thriller took place in the world of gay leather bars so we see, in a short sixty minute documentary, the two directors putting together cast and crew to film raunchy scenes of fetishistic excess. What Franco wants to achieve, besides a curious experiment in filmmaking, is a treatise against a world where gay rights and the push for same sex marriage, which to him reeks of heteronormative assimilation, result in a bland normalization being foisted upon the queer community. Oddly enough, this film spends very little of its time showing the footage that he and Matthews create, instead observing the actors, particularly lead Val Lauren filling in for Pacino, as they express their reservations about performing in something so risqué but also their desire to work with famous Franco and get their shot at stardom. What this results in, then, is a film that wants to be about gay rights but is, like mainstream Hollywood, mainly concerned with the anxieties of straight men. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the film is surprisingly easy to sit through, but there’s a point where Lauren is arguing with his agent and, given that he is an actor, his soul, and you find yourself wondering why either he or this project really matter.