Dir. Simon Shore
(1999, R, 110 min)

Bullied gay teen – check. Trusted female confidante – check. Popular, closeted jock – check. Supportive mother and disapproving father who will eventually come around – check and check. Get Real is a diagrammatic coming-of-age-and-coming-out story down to its last character, story point, and line of dialogue. There’s even a late scene where the disapproving father walks in late to witness his son’s proud moment – the same father is shown throughout the film to be a fan of Doctor Who, so we know he can’t be all bad.

The film was released in 1999, which in terms of gay movies is almost like the Pleistocene era. Nowadays we get movies like Kaboom, in which a gay teen is called “asshole” by his mother affectionately and is only hassled by his straight peers because of occult prophecies involving the apocalypse. Well, maybe that’s not a typical example.

I wanted to see Get Real back in 1999 when I was in high school, but never got the chance. Now watching it in 2011 I find myself wishing it were more like Kaboom. No, I don’t really mean that, but I do wish it were lighter on its feet, wittier and less anguished – a high school movie more like Easy A, which took itself just seriously enough to make us care about its characters but not so much that we felt lectured to. That film’s heroine would have gotten along well with Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone), a middle-class British teen who is only out to his best friend, Linda (Charlotte Brittain), and who doesn’t know where else to meet boys but cruising the restroom in a local park, which is frequented mostly by older married men.

But one day he discovers another boy from his school at the park: John Dixon (Brad Gorton), a track star and the big man on campus. He’s dating a model – well, a model for mail-order catalogs, but that’s good enough to be the envy of this particular school. After a few awkward encounters and John’s half-hearted denials, they begin dating – or, rather, their version of dating, which includes mostly sneaking around when their parents conveniently leave one of them alone in his house for an entire weekend. Where do they go during these well-timed trips away from home, and how come I didn’t have parents that accommodating when I was in high school?

After that, it’s the usual spiel: John refuses to be seen with Steven in public, but Steven tires of the secrecy, and eventually their relationships to each other and the school come to a head. This is all very predictable, and nary a cliché is overlooked, but I was surprised to find myself enjoying it. Director Simon Shore shoots it plainly, letting his actors drive the story, as in one scene in which Gorton delivers a lengthy one-take monologue about a formative sexual encounter. And in the climactic scene, Silverstone is nuanced in a way that elevates the familiar sentiments that have been written for him. This is not a challenging film, but it’s warm and affectionate in a way that is comforting. Its characters are likable, but more importantly believable, so that even though we know where it’s all going, we don’t feel manipulated when we get there.

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