(out of 5)
The Vietnam draft is in full swing in 1969 and Danny and Elliot are determined not to get caught up in it. They aren’t exactly conscientious objectors, but Danny is poised to go to law school and begin a successful career, and Elliot has no intention of leaving behind his days as a lifeguard and all the girls it gives him access to. More important, they don’t want to die, so they come up with the perfect scheme to get out of being drafted: they show up at the recruitment office and tell the sergeant that they are lovers. Turns out it will take more than a paisley neck scarf and fancy slacks to save their butts, as the recruiting officer starts sniffing around their real lives and they begin to panic that they might be found out, so they get a ridiculously ornate apartment in a gay neighbourhood and set up shop. Friction is imminent, of course, since Danny’s stewardess girlfriend begins to suspect that he’s not the man she thought he was and Elliot endangers his employment at the pool. Then there’s the entrance of, what else, the fruity gay neighbours who just can’t make an entrance without twirling something while wearing a colourful apron. This ridiculous comedy, which at the time might have thought it was really putting its thumb on the pulse of a cultural shift, couldn’t possibly be more dated, but while its depictions of its gay characters is hopelessly limited (and its support of its lead characters’ knee-jerk panic reactions to them in bad taste), it does have some surprising nuggets of value. The lie these guys tell goes beyond their control and makes them suffer the same fate (ostracism, fear) as the men they are exploiting (to be clear, they are never made to feel responsible for this, or led to some kind of pro-gay conclusion, but as a viewer imposing modern sensibilities on a vision on different times it is interesting to see). It would be better if there was anything authentic about the gay men it portrays, and would be possibly funnier as well: I fully believe (and hope) that there were men who dressed and behaved with such unapologetic camp, but Michael Greer‘s blithe lack of awareness of the meanness of the real world he lives in makes him seem more like something out of science-fiction and less like he is too self-confident to care what “good society” thinks of him. On top of that, when you remove the heat that the subject had at the time, it’s not a particularly funny movie, but the handsome stars are game, the garish colours might be a pleasure for some, and its having been released literally months before the Stonewall riots makes it historically interesting.
Directed by Bruce Kessler
Cinematography by Richard C. Glouner
Produced by Joe Solomon
Music by Stu Phillips
Production Design by Archie J. Bacon