Reel Affirmations 2005
Review by Dan Odenwald
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/22/2005, 2:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre
A HEARTFELT MEDITATION on the injury of growing up gay, 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous, drops us dead center in the awkward adolescence of Billy, 13, an overweight sissy, who’s in love with his fake, blonde ponytail and hates rugby.
At turns hysterical and heartbreaking, the film follows Billy (played by Andrew Patterson) and his cousin and best pal, Lou (played by Harriet Beattie). The two make an unlikely pair: the nancy boy and his athletic tomboy protector.
Set in 1970’s New Zealand, 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous captures the peculiarities of rustic life Down Under: the barren, rocky landscape, the persistent threat of brush fires and the dry, choking drought.
It’s a fitting backdrop for a story about feeling like an alien in your own skin. Ridiculed as a ”poofter,” Billy escapes the realities of his less-than-fabulous life by imagining he’s an outer-space adventurer, battling otherworldly creatures instead of class bullies.
He finds refuge in Roy (played by the uber-awkward Roy Collins), the strange new classmate who’s even weirder than Billy. The two strike up an unconventional relationship, exploring each other’s bodies and finding comfort in living on the outside.
Director Stewart Main offers a finely-tuned addition to the vast coming-out repertoire of gay cinema. At once passing strange and immediately familiar, 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous carries us back to the pain and misery of gay youth. The only triumph is getting through it reasonably unscathed.
False starts abound, however. Viewers can’t help but cringe when Billy falls for the hunky, handyman, Jamie (played with a satisfying machismo by Michael Dorman). Young Billy virtually throws himself at the unsuspecting bloke, to much horror indeed.
As refreshing and quirky as 50 Ways of Saying Fabulous often is, it also suffers to a degree from its strangeness. It can seem at times more like a funky B movie than a modern coming-out story.
Still, the movie is a satisfying, oddball treat on many levels. Many viewers will certainly identify and sympathize with the chunky protagonist, remembering all too well our own alien pasts, and thankful indeed that they’re behind us.