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…..Or Treat

December 28th, 2008

I just watched Trick for the first time in nine years. Well, pregnancy by watched I mean flipped through to the scenes that I remember from that first time I saw it, anesthetist which was on what turned out to be my first date ever. I recall few things about that day, treat or even the other guy (despite dating him for a month or so, I now cannot picture his face no matter how hard I try) which worries me as I ought to be able to remember these things and the only other dates I have been on are with my first, only, and current boyfriend….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The truth is I expected to be appalled at how bad the movie is. It’s been my experience recently that certain things that brought me tremendous joy in childhood or my teenage years fail to arouse even nostalgic glimmers of happiness because now, with adult eyes, I see that they are in fact TERRIBLE. Certain phases I went through in high school spring to mind as being particularly embarrassing, (Pokémon, for example), and even some of my favorite CDs that I would listen to over and over I now cannot stand. (Bernstein’s Mozart Requiem – what is up with the fucking Lacrimosa?)

This turned out not to be the case at all, although it’s a strange feeling to watch it because in a way I am also watching myself nine years ago watching it. What’s even weirder and meta-er (whatever) is that all those years ago I was literally experiencing that same newness, longing, and anxiety that the movie’s protagonist was, which made for a very maudlin reaction I’m sure. (I can imagine the frantic arm-flailing that must have accompanied my re-telling of the story at the time)

All my memories aside though, it’s not as bad of a movie as I remember…plot-wise it’s pretty straightforward – boy meets boy, they try and hook up but end up having a night of misadventures instead. Gabriel, the protagonist, is a musician: a philosophical soul uninterested in the tecno-and-poppers gay lifestyle and its bear-/boarish ways. He is essentially a platonic form of innocence that is frighteningly easy to graft onto yourself if you’re not careful. (needless to say I was not) Tori Spelling as Gabe’s friend essentially plays herself (a ditzy, two-bit actress) and the slutty go-go dancing love interest, Mark, is quite the hottie. Let me rephrase that: he’s SMOKING hot. The roommate and her boyfriend comprise a forgettable subplot, boring in their heteronormativism, but there are two minor characters who essentially act like the muses in Classical myth: they impart their wisdom and then vanish. And it was these that I took more notice of this time.

The first is Gabriel’s teacher. We find out in an opening scene that Gabriel is writing a musical (which unfortunately means that one of his songs occurs throughout the movie like an annoyingly catchy leitmotif) but can’t quite figure out the love bits. His teacher encourages him to search the world for experience, to “grab life by the balls,” which he proceeds to do. Hence the story. Surprisingly, the teacher reappears later in the movie, and tells the pair about his relationship woes. It seems that despite his devil-may-care attitude, he is upset over his recent breakup. They’d been together three years, which is said in italics as though a plaque ought to have been made, and he thought it was over. When, however, they encounter him on the street, a blubbery and oddly touching reconciliation takes place, and witnessing it brings Gabe and Mark a little closer together. This wisened, though imperfect, figure shows Gabe what he wants to see – that romance and a real relationship can be difficult, but is certainly attainable.

Then there’s the drag queen. She encounters Gabe in a bathroom (mirroring another pivotal scene in a bathroom later on….as though all gay transactions happening in public bathrooms is a stereotype we need to reinforce!) and proceeds to describe to Gabe the other, more menacing side of the picture. It seems she, too, had taken a fancy to Mark, and in telling how they met describes pitch-perfectly the scene where Gabe encounters him for the first time. This is the first real evidence that Mark might really be what he seems: a flirt just looking for a quick score and nothing else. She then dramatically relates the whole of their encounter and, well, maybe I’ll just let her do the talking.

This scene was burned (no pun intended) into my memory for years, and still remains sharp even now. It is also probably the best acting in the movie – I dare someone to do it as a monologue.

She turns out, luckily, to be wrong about Mark, who appears by the end to be interested in more than a one-night stand – whether he changes as a result of the events of the movie is unclear, but it is comforting to think that he did, and that the young innocent with no knowledge in the ways of love converted him. While the budding romance of the film’s main characters is what caught my eye all those years ago, I find myself now thinking about these two older, experienced characters: the gaytriarchs, if you will. They both desire the same thing, but have approached it from different ways, and in the end the teacher appears happy while the drag queen is an object of laughable pity. We are led to understand that you reap what you sow, and if one seeks affection and romance without having it first one is ultimately burned. BURRRRRRRNED. (did you watch it? you should. at least start at 3:45. doesn’t she look and talk just a a little bit like Lucille Bluth? It’s funny because she had a brief cameo in Arrested Development as a wig shop owner….but I digress)

Rather than the young, naïve musician with whom I had so much in common nine years ago, I now find myself empathizing with these two – and thankfully, more to the teacher than the silly cuckholded drag queen. I find myself, like them, looking back on people like Gabe with a vague smile, as though they’re telling me a story I’ve already heard – I don’t cut them off, correct them, or finish it for them, but I let them tell it to me again so I can try and remember what it was like to hear it for the first time. I’m not looking forward to the inevitable conclusion with wonder like I was years ago, but hearing it again allows me to reflect on my own story and realize just how lucky I am. I would never have imagined nine years ago that I was only three years, three quasi-sexual encounters, two major crushes, two rejections, and only one graduation ceremony away from the day I found what true love is.

But back to Trick. Would I reccommend it? I think so….there’s a certain charm to it which is undeniable, and while not Oscar material it’s a good deal better than most “gay” movies I’ve seen. (All Over the Guy was also very good, if I remember correctly) Although the end is satisfying and the overall effect is uplifting, I wish there was a wedding or something at the end like in other romantic comedies, where you get a chance to see all the little characters and be assured that they’re just as happy as the now-hitched protagonists. I can just picture the teacher and his equally cubbish boyfriend, their matching sweaters a perfect reflection of their love. And the drag queen, snarkily demeaning someone’s attire at the reception, when lo and behold the bouquet lands in her manicured hands and she breaks into tears of joy and hope. Tori Spelling meets someone at the wedding who gives her the break she wanted, and the roommate is still off shagging her boring boyfriend, happily off-camera. It might just be this movie’s particular specificity in the story of my romantic development, but perhaps it really is a funny, gay, feel-good movie that can help you believe in love again. Or, if not love, than just the power of a nice set of pecs on the dance floor.

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