One of the problems with narcissism as a character trait is that narcissism is by nature of little interest to anyone other than the narcissist. Even — and this is important — a very, very pretty narcissist.
Danny in the Sky is the story of 19-year-old Danny (Jessie Beaulieu), son of a dead-by-overdose runway model mother and an emotionally dead homosexual father. As the film opens, Danny finds himself lying in the gutter, his stomach bleeding from a possibly mortal wound, asking himself in voiceover, “Having style was my life…How did I end up here? ”
And so the flashback begins.
Instead of going to college as his father wishes, Danny’s been secretly modeling, apparently too dim to realize that his appearances in newspaper and bus advertisements may be noticed by his father. Domestic disturbances follow, and Danny finds himself out of the house, with his slightly nerdy cousin in tow.
Director Denis Langlois (who co-wrote the script with Bertrand Lachance) traces Danny’s arc from runway modeling to seedy strip clubs to even seedier porn sets with an adoring gaze that never allows his centerpiece to get too dirtied by his surroundings — his depiction of degradation and addiction is firmly in the realm of Calvin Klein advertising campaigns.
The problem lies with Danny himself. It may sound interesting that a young straight guy is determined to make it in a gay career. As narcissists do, Danny finds himself endlessly fascinating, dropping his life story to various people in the film, always casting himself as the victim of a life too strange and hard.
Late in the film, when Danny’s father confronts him in the backroom of a strip club, you learn the extent of what he’s sacrificed to make a “normal ” life for his son. The revelation makes him perhaps more sympathetic than intended, but it certainly sounds like a more interesting story than that of his son (although the whole scene has a creeptastic feeling that calls to mind the old George C. Scott film Hardcore).
So Danny makes his way through a parade of naked and nearly naked men — hence ensuring the film a gay audience — until a forgotten character reappears in a ridiculous plot contrivance and brings him full circle to the gutter of the beginning. Which, thankfully, is the ending.
Far more worthy of your time is the shorter and better Israeli film, Yossi & Jagger. A military love story, it shows that even in an army that technically accepts gay servicemembers, there’s still a long way to go before many soldiers can live openly.
Yossi (Ohad Knoller) is the commanding officer of an Israeli army unit that has just returned to base from a difficult mission. He’s in the middle of a love affair with his second-in-command, Jagger (Yehuda Levi), but not quite ready to commit to a gay life together outside of the military.
The movie is at its best with the small moments of intimacy between the two, such as making love in the snow under the gaze of a rabbit. But Yossi and Jagger aren’t the only relationships swirling at camp — one of the two women, Yaeli, is in love with Jagger but can’t figure out how to tell him. When the unit is ordered into a dangerous mission, all the interpersonal conflicts come to a head.
Yossi & Jagger is not the most inventive film ever — its insights into army life aren’t as deep as they probably could have been — but the core relationship is sweetly disarming. When an exasperated Jagger tells Yossi about their relationship, “This is not some fucking American movie, ” you have to laugh because in this case that’s a good thing.
Danny in the Sky shows Thursday, June 5 at 7 p.m., Yossi & Jagger shows Friday, June 6 at 7 p.m., both at Lincoln Theatre as part of the Reel Affirmations Pride Film Festival. Tickets are $9. For more information visit www.reelaffirmations.org/pride or call 202-986-1119.