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||IMDB Rating: 6.7/10 from 1,370 votes
||Release: 9 July 1999 (USA) /
||Genre: Drama, Romance, Sport
||Director: John Keitel,
||Stars: Daniel Chilson, David Tuchman, Don Handfield, Jess Martell, Katrina Holden Bronson, Kevin Patrick Wright, Laura Fox, Lesley Pedersen, Linna Carter, Matt Steveley, Nick Spano, Nicki Aycox, Niklaus Lange, Ryan Tucker, Seabass Diamond
||Synopsis: Griff wants to maintain just a superficial relationship with his all-gay boyfriend, who gets seriously wounded in a gay bashing.
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Once in a while you run into a movie that packs a wallop not because it is
flawless, but in spite of, indeed almost because of, its flaws. I found the
first 20 minutes or so of `Defying Gravity' very hard to sit through, and
was still uncomfortable halfway through the film. The depiction of frat
life seemed all too convincing; how could we have any sympathy for a main
character who would buy into such cheesy `male camaraderie' at its most
off-putting? (There is a coarse common term for these frat boys and their
behavior, but I'll avoid using it here.) Even when the action moved beyond
the suffocating atmosphere of the frat house and the tailgate party -- the
evocation of said atmosphere being the first sign, perhaps, that
writer-director John Keitel knew what he was doing after all -- I had the
uneasy feeling I was watching yet another well-intentioned paint-by-numbers
Afterschool Special about coming out, especially when the inevitable clichéd
gay-bashing (right down to the baseball bats) took place.
But that is precisely when `Defying Gravity' begins to take an unexpected
turn, gathering momentum when you least expect it. Once Griff has to face
the reality of the consequences of his hiding, this film starts to soar.
That's not because the plot ceases to be fairly predictable; it doesn't.
What lifts this above most other movies, and certainly many gay-themed
flicks, is how squarely and unapologetically it addresses and depicts love
in its many forms. There's the true love of friendship between the closeted
Griff and the straight, trying-to-understand Todd. (Why is any gay-themed
movie with sympathetic straight characters derided as fantasy? Hello!
understanding straight friends and family really do happen in `real life.'
Talk about self-hatred
) There's a brief, but extremely potent, display of
parental love (kudos to Kevin P. Wright as Pete's father). And above all,
there's the belated but knockout realization of the love between Griff and
Pete, in the final hospital scene and the beautiful little coda the most
powerful emotional payoff I've seen onscreen in quite a while. In terms of
conviction, it all puts the more recent, vastly overrated "Big Eden," for
instance, totally in the shade.
Clearly Mr. Keitel deserves credit for turning this movie around the way he
does. And then there's the cast. Nicklaus Lange's finely tuned performance
makes Todd a real person, not a buddy wish fulfillment. Don Handfield as
Pete has a smaller role than one might anticipate but, crucial to the film's
impact, he underplays this more grounded character to perfection. "Defying
Gravity" ultimately rests, however, on the shoulders of Daniel Chilson as
Griff, and boy does he come through: I see something very different here
from those who commented on supposedly amateurish acting. Chilson can do
more with his face particularly his endearing, slightly off-kilter smile
than many much more highly touted performers. Watch the extraordinarily
nuanced play of emotions across that face when Pete's housemate tells Griff
`he really cares about you,' and in the aforementioned final two scenes
between Griff and Pete. That's what film acting is all about. Bravo,
Daniel! When will we see you onscreen again?
Tags for Defying Gravity Full Movie
, David Tuchman
, Don Handfield
, Jess Martell
, Katrina Holden Bronson
, Kevin Patrick Wright
, Laura Fox
, Lesley Pedersen
, Linna Carter
, Matt Steveley
, Nick Spano
, Nicki Aycox
, Niklaus Lange
, Ryan Tucker
, Seabass Diamond
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