It’s a universal truth, widely accepted, that inside every gay man is a blonde, neon-wearing, glitter-adorned, Justin Timberlake-loving teenaged girl. It’s why
movies like Jawbreaker and Legally Blonde are made and why Hello Kitty lip gloss still reigns supreme.
It’s also the driving force behind the derivative and predictable new movie, Celeste in the City, premiering this Sunday on the ABC Family cable network. A modern-day fairy tale about an ugly duckling moved to New York City, Celeste in the City was created with two audiences in mind: 14-year-old girls and gay men.
Part Working Girl, part Sex and the City, the telepic follows the relocation of recent college grad Celeste Blodgett (Majandra Delfino, of Roswell) to New York City, where she’s slated to start a new job at the newspaper of record, the New York Examiner. Celeste thinks she’s about to begin a plum reporting assignment, but is actually headed to the less-than-glamorous copy desk for a job as a fact checker for the Sunday magazine.
Her dreams of a posh New York pad are replaced with the reality of a rundown studio in an overpriced tenement building overrun by rats. And her earthy-girl, crunchy good looks are lost on the city’s mod and fabulous beautiful people.
Desolate and broken down, Celeste turns for help to her long-lost cousin, Dana (Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Nicholas Brendon), a stylish gay man living in Chelsea. Dana, along with his troupe of best friends, including Monica (Debbie Gibson), set out to remake Celeste. “We’re going to turn you into the next Paris Hilton,” the gay gaggle squeals. “Before the video, of course.”
With new clothes, a new haircut, and a new outlook on life, Celeste is reborn as a hot child in the city, catching the eye of the office Don Juan, who also happens to be her editor. She falls for the Lothario and in the process breaks the heart of her cute, unsuspecting next-door neighbor, Kyle (Ethan Embry), who’s crushing hard on our heroine.
Throw in a case of mistaken identity and the other formulaic staples of stories like these, and you’ve pretty much got it. If it sounds absurdly imitative and hopelessly unoriginal, it’s because it is. Despite its earnest nature, Celeste barely constitutes viewable television.
Celeste‘s only saving grace, perhaps, is that it will connect with some group of girls out there, who may one day want to move to the Big City and pal around with their gay relatives in SoHo. I, for one, can’t wait to meet them for countless hours of dishing about boys and pop culture over sushi and martinis.
For adult gay audiences, however, Celeste in the City requires an amazing capacity to withstand trite dialogue and banal plot gimmicks. During the makeover scene I nearly turned the TV off when Dana delivers this whopper: “With the right shoe comes mystique, respect, a fabulous life and, yes, prince charming. Remember Cinderella? It was all about the heels, honey.”
Equally embarrassing is the absolutely shameless use of product placement, a cheap and obvious ploy taken to new heights in Celeste. During one scene, glossy shots of Crest Whitestrips, Pantene Shampoo and Cover Girl cosmetics have the screen all to themselves. No joke — the entire picture. Talk about delivering eyeballs to advertisers. ABC Family should be mortified.
Not that blatant commercialism is Celeste in the City‘s biggest problem. Maybe the film’s producers should take advice from a drag queen, who recently revealed to me the secret to her success: “Do something. Do anything. Just do it differently.” Spoken like a true fairy godmother.