|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 08 February 2000|
‘Trick’ is a fairly amiable if somewhat self-conscious gay romantic comedy about two young Manhattan men who make eye contact in a bar, flirt outside a subway train and then discover that finding a place to consummate a one-night stand is harder than it sounds.
Gabriel (Christian Campbell) is an office worker by day who writes musicals in his off-hours. Gabriel’s straight male roommate (Brad Beyer) keeps hogging their studio apartment all night long with his own complicated love life, best friend Catherine (Tori Spelling) is a self-obsessed off-off-off-off-Broadway actress and Gabriel himself is uncomfortable with the bar scene. However, when cute go-go dancer (John Paul Pitoc) approaches Gabriel when his routine is over, Gabriel is thrilled. There’s just the problem of where to go …
‘Trick’ has an unstated but visible premise that’s actually pretty funny and sweet. The two leads have to spend so much time together in their attempt to have anonymous sex that invariably they get to one another and the possibility of genuine romance develops. This is somewhat undermined by both the overly perky, stage-comedy tone of Jason Schafer’s screenplay and Jim Fall’s direction, which consistently pushes the jokes and gee-whiz vulnerability of the hero a little too hard. Having three characters obsessed by Broadway and musical numbers is plausible enough for Manhattan, but it makes for some overly precious moments.
The film is lucky in the charm of its leads. Campbell, who bears a strong resemblance to Billy Campbell (of TV’s ‘Once and Again’ – perhaps the two actors are brothers?), has an agreeable earnestness and Pitoc becomes increasingly likable as the easygoing, fast-on-his-feet Mark, even if the character’s amiability makes him a bit too good to be true. Spelling does a good job of playing up Catherine’s chatty insecurities, shining when they finally spill out of control.
‘Trick’ was clearly made on a budget, but production values are good. The piano-based score by David Friedman has a pleasingly wistful quality that sets the scene well in Chapter 1, and foley work is good throughout, with jangling keys handled very well. Chapter 2 requires lip-synching as Spelling’s character sings in a musical workshop sequence – the dubbing is apparent but not egregious. Chapter 7, in which Steve Hayes as a friend of Gabriel’s, sings a naughty novelty number, has a better match of lip movements to words.
Don’t be alarmed at what sounds like an audio pop in Chapter 2 – it turns out to simply be the tap on Spelling’s dance shoe making initial contact with the floor. Chapter 12 does an especially adept job of mixing the soundtrack with street traffic sounds and the rumble of the subway. Some of the bar sequences (notably Chapter 3) tend to play up the music at the expense of atmospheric background dialogue, though primary scripted dialogue always comes through clearly, regardless of setting.
Given the movie’s premise, it’s pretty tame in terms of what we actually see (and, indeed, story action). There’s a lot of embracing and kissing and (an interesting bit of really gratuitous nudity in a film that seems targeted mainly at gay men) a woman baring her breasts in a non-sexual situation in Chapter 11.
‘Trick’ is slight but affable. It’s kind of like a ‘Will and Grace’ episode, with sexual determination replacing the dialogue zingers.