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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
Trick (1999)
3 Stars

Directed by Jim Fall
Cast: Christian Campbell, J.P. Pitoc, Tori Spelling, Lorri Bagley, Steve Hayes, Brad Beyer, Clinton Leupp.
1999 – 90 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for profanity, sexual situations, and nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 12, 1999.

One of the most talked-about independent films at this year's Sundance Film Festival, director Jim Fall's "Trick" is one of those "up-all-night" comedies in the vein of Martin Scorcese's 1985 "After Hours," which take place within a 24-hour period, and follow a certain character through his/her (mis)adventures during that one memorable night. Not only does "Trick" thoroughly entertain in the context of this genre, but it also stands as being the most uplifting and romantic love story of the year, thanks to the extremely likable and innocent lug of a main character and the crisp, funny screenplay by Jason Schafer. The fact that the two people involved in the said romance are both male is more or less insignificant, as the film's core relationship is something all audiences can relate to, and therefore, it deserves to have a universal appeal (narrow-minded homophobes notwithstanding). It really is difficult to knock a movie, anyway, that is as genuinely sweet as this one is.

Gabriel (Christian Campbell, Neve's older brother) is a twentysomething New Yorker who, despite being a struggling musical writer, feels that he does not fit into the stereotypical mold of a gay person, and has a best friend in the bubbly Katherine (Tori Spelling), an aspiring actress who is always going to auditions with him and performing his musical numbers. The night following a discouraging presentation of one of his latest songs, "Enter, You," Gabriel goes off to a gay club (something he normally doesn't do), where he first sets his eyes on muscular go-go dancer, Mark (J.P. Pitoc). Taking the subway on his way home, Mark shows up in the same car as Gabriel, and immediately suggests that they find a place to be alone. The rest of the film follows Gabriel and Mark on their journey through the nightlife of NYC, as they attempt to turn a "trick." It doesn't work out that way, however, as Gabriel finds that Katherine is at his apartment printing out 150 copies of her resume, followed by his roommate (Brad Beyer), who shows up with his ditzy girlfriend (Lorri Bagley). No matter where Gabriel and Mark go, there is a distraction of some sort, until it eventually doesn't seem to matter much anymore, as a potential one-night-stand starts to transform into what may very well be a budding romantic relationship.

There's no better word to describe "Trick" than 'magical.' Abandoning the usual topics and hang-ups of most gay-oriented movies, including "coming out" and AIDS, what talented director Fall has done here is given us two gay people who have long-since accepted their sexual orientation, as have all of the other characters around them, and so the movie does not become a serious-minded, so-called "meaningful" movie, but one that immediately centers in and concentrates on the characters themselves and their kinships with each other, most importantly in that of Gabriel and Mark, and Gabriel and Katherine.

The performances from all three leads, as well as many of the supporting actors, are well worth noting. Christian Campbell, in his first major film role, is perfect as the somewhat shy Gabriel, who doesn't have much experience with love, romance, and sex yet, but knows it when he sees it. Campbell fills the requirements of the role probably better than anyone else could, because he has this sort of dimpled baby-face that you instantly accept and believe as the character he is playing. J.P. Pitoc, as Mark, at first appears to only be the "boy of attraction," but is gradually revealed throughout to have many complex, human layers under his exterior appearance. As Gabriel's roommate's girlfriend, Lorri Bagley is hilarious. With her high, flaky voice, Bagley has one scene in which she unsuccessfully plays psychologist to the feuding Gabriel and Mark, based on a misunderstanding, and it turns into a centerpiece of comic brilliance. And Clinton Leupp steals the few scenes he has as the draq queen, Miss Coco Peru, striking a major resemblance to Katherine, who has words of wisdom to share with Gabriel while in a club bathroom, if only he can finish what he has to say before the next person in line outside bangs the restroom door down!

Finally, who would have ever thought that Tori Spelling (of "90210" fame) was such a talented actress? Spelling is outstanding as the talkative Katherine, showing off her surprising gift for comedy (as in the scene where she inauspiciously performs the song-and-dance number, "Enter, You," in front of a stone-faced audience), as well as fully developing her character beyond two-dimensional status. Katherine could have easily been a throwaway role, but screenwriter Jason Schafer does something that was definitely the right choice; Spelling's last scene is one of unexpected poignancy and truth, in which we really get to know and sympathize with Katherine, a young woman who briefly dated Gabriel in high school before he knew he was gay, and still has deep feeling for him even though she knows they can never be anything more than best friends. We've seen this sort of character and conflict before, sure, but it rarely has ever been this effectively and gently done. I can now say, without any sort of regret or embarrassment, that I like Tori Spelling as an actress, and anticipate the days when she can once and for all break free of "Beverly Hills, 90210" and concentrate on her promising film career.

Helped along by dreamy, flattering cinematography of NYC, by Terry Stacey, and a sunny, '40s-style music score by David Friedman, "Trick" is the type of absolutely winning romantic comedy that the recent disappointing Julia Roberts-Richard Gere box-office hit, "Runaway Bride," only dreams of being. You want an unabashed, believable, stirring romantic scene with nothing more than a simple kiss that says it all, then look no further than the excellent last scene of this film, and leave "Runaway Bride" at the altar where it belongs. Plain and simple, the film is an idealistic fairy tale about something that most people constantly pine for from afar, in which you find love where you least expect it. A "Trick," indeed, but also a veritable treat.

©1999 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman