Okay, I admit it, I thought American Pie (1999) was funny. I even laughed during Another Gay Movie (2006), the queer AP rip-off.
But the giggles end there; eight years of teen virginity flicks is enough, and the joke’s gone stale.
Apparently, Argentinean director Alexis Dos Santos didn’t get my memo, though. Glue (2007), his first feature, opens with a monologue from adolescent protagonist Lucas about how he needs to get laid this summer.
Sure, this film’s not a comedy, but the distinction doesn’t freshen its premise at all. Like lettuce gone limp, Glue’s storyline withers in the gold-tinted glow of its Patagonian landscape.
Lucas is on a journey of sexual discovery. A scrawny, fashionable teen with immaculately messy hair, he entertains a passion for his buff best friend Nacho while simultaneously pursuing the ambiguously bisexual Andrea. Lucas’ dual interests eventually lead to a drunken three-way in a bathroom and a happy friendship between the trio.
Meanwhile, the adults in Lucas’ life struggle to keep their shit together; his father has been caught cheating, and his mother vacillates between violent rage and tender reconciliation.
The film takes its title from a drawn-out scene in the second act, played out in orange-stained soft-focus, of Lucas and Nacho sniffing glue from plastic bags.
Fortunately, Glue doesn’t rest entirely on its storyline for success. It’s a visually arresting film, in which the glimmering South American landscape is as much a character as Lucas himself.
Bored by the teen angst and the inane situations, I turned to the visual aspects for my entertainment; the cameraperson became my protagonist. She is a constant presence, a voyeuristic character who peaks around a wall to spy on Lucas jerking off, then dashes across rocky soil to capture a closer look at a wrestling match between Lucas and Nacho. Her trembling, handheld explorations shape the reality of every shot.
At times, the meaning of scenes gets lost in the camera shake of extreme close-ups or the dimness of improperly lit indoor sets, but somehow I never felt like I was missing much. The journey of the filmmaking was more impressive than the journey of the characters.
Then again, I shouldn’t be surprised that the story didn’t satisfy: in a film about a queer boy trying to lose his virginity, the title Glue —the opposite of lube —sounds more than a little abrasive.