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A fumbling search for love in postmodern gay L.A.

October 17, 2003|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Everett Lewis' "Luster" lives up to its title as a fresh, bittersweet look at the pursuit of love among a creative group of L.A. young people. It is an unusual film in that most all its people are gay but virtually no one seems homosexual in any stereotypical way in regard to mannerisms, attitudes or preoccupations. Sexual orientation seems a purely incidental matter, scarcely worth thinking or talking about. The irony, however, is that had it occurred to any of them to look at one another as relationship material, the results would not have been so dire.

These are all attractive, appealing people. Lewis, who made his 1990 debut with the memorable "The Natural History of Parking Lots," has cast in the leading role Justin Herwick as Jackson, a lanky guy with blue hair who skateboards around the record store expressing strong views on the customers' tastes while working part time for the kindly Sam (Shane Powers), who has a maturity about him that contrasts with Jackson and their friends, although he clearly is not much older. Jackson is intense, as one would expect of an aspiring poet.

Knowing what love is and recognizing it is Lewis' abiding concern in this film. After a boozy, druggy orgy, Jackson awakens to conclude that he has fallen in love with Billy (Jonah Blechman), who only wants to be friends. Out of the blue, Jackson's Iowa cousin Jed (B. Wyatt), seemingly naive but definitely uninhibited, visits. Meanwhile, Jackson becomes the object of love at first sight on the part of a record store customer, Derek (Sean Thibodeau), who strikes Jackson as too square. Among Jackson's pals are a chic lesbian couple (Susannah Melvoin and Pamela Gidley), and they are not left out of the action, nor is a creepy, decadent rock star (Willie Garson) for whom Jackson writes lyrics and to whom Billy is attracted.

"Luster" has a charming, skittish quality, and Lewis finds pathos and humor in his characters' often painful search for love. There are moments in which the actors seem a bit self-conscious, yet this low-budget picture is a calling card for pretty much everyone in front of the camera.

"Luster's" finale comes out of left field, although it becomes more credible as it sinks in. Rounding out the film's pleasures is its rousing score, featuring a long list of queer rockers.



MPAA rating: Unrated.

Times guidelines: Some sex, nudity, language, drugs. Not for children.

Justin Herwick...Jackson

Shane Powers...Sam

B. Wyatt...Jed

Jonah Blechman...Billy

Sean Thibodeau...Derek

A TLA Releasing presentation of a Film Research Unit production in association with Form A, 2042 Films. Writer-director-editor Everett Lewis. Producer Robert Shulevitz. Cinematographer Humberto De Luna. Original score Michael Leon. Costumes Mimi Maxmen. Art director Alex Brewer-Disarufino. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Exclusively at the Regent Showcase, 614 N. La Brea Ave., (323) 934-4071.

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