Magazine article Screen International

'After Louie': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'After Louie': Review

Article excerpt

Alan Cumming and Zachary Booth headline a debut which looks at what it means to be gay today

Dir/scr. Vincent Gagliostro. USA, 2017, 100 mins

Exploring changing queer culture within a multi-generational drama, After Louie charts a former AIDS crusader’s attempts to reconcile his past and present. Alan Cumming plays an activist, artist and filmmaker haunted by the world he rallied against while grappling with the one he now inhabits. Biographical parallels remain evident in writer/director Vincent Gagliostro’s debut, the year’s second film to draw from its helmer’s ACT UP history following Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute). So does a thoughtful, if often heavy-handed, contemplation of what it means to be gay today.

While After Louie might not always approach its content in a subtle way, the film’s passion, insights and feeling frequently hit home regardless

Though After Louie asks that question, it doesn’t pretend to provide a definitive answer. Instead, the film probes perceptions and tackles issues - spanning those who lived through the turbulent ’80s and ‘90s, their predecessors and the next generation reaping the benefits of their struggle; and pondering survivors’ guilt, post-HIV crisis apathy and fear of hetero-normativity. Accordingly, the feature’s multi-layered examination and multi-faceted representation will help broaden its audience, as will Cumming’s star power. Screening at Outfest Los Angeles after premiering at the BFI Flare, further LGBT festival attention and then streaming play beckon.

Cumming’s Sam Cooper is 55 going on both 23 and 70. Petulantly trapped by the storm he weathered decades ago, and perpetually mourning the loved ones he lost, he’s also exhausted from his refusal to see that yesterday’s deluge has passed. When he surveys anything in his gaze, it’s with a tired but tenacious look - and when he’s forced to accept any signs of progress, be it his long-term pals (Patrick Breen and Wilson Cruz) embracing their newfound right to marry or today’s gay men living with rather than fearing AIDS, it’s with defiance and dismay.

Courtesy of his latest antics, viewers will become familiar with Sam’s standard expression; however, watching it evolve is crucial to his tale. When audiences first meet the New Yorker, he’s turning old videos of a dearly departed partner (David Drake) into a filmic tribute. His art dealer (Justin Vivian Bond) cautions against the project, and his friends (including Sarita Choudhury and Lucas Caleb Rooney) worry about his obsessiveness - when they’re not commenting about his paid-for fondness for younger men, that is. …

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