By Hans Pedersen, February 2016 Web Exclusive. Back to Echo’s Desperado 2016 coverage.
Young and wild New Yorkers who hide out in an Upper East Side penthouse are the focus of this charming tale on how to stop loving your best friend, which screens at 6 p.m. Jan. 31 as part of the 2016 Desperado LGBT Film Festival.
Propelled by a complex love triangle, this dynamic drama about self-compassion and the drags of adulthood plays out like a cautionary tale of excess, and could have easily been set in the 1920s instead of modern times.
Charlie (Jonathan Gordon) is a young gay painter facing a classic quandary: he’s in love with his best friend Sebastian (Jason Ralph). While the two bond over Gilbert and Sullivan, the deep affection they share seems to be short-circuiting any chances Charlie may have of hooking up with someone else.
Sebastian is caught in a headline-making financial scandal; he’s the despised son of an infamous Bernie Madoff-type scammer who has just been incarcerated. With the bank account drained and infamy clouding his every move, Sebastian hides out in his luxurious apartment with his friends, nearly paralyzed by his sudden notoriety and lack of wealth.
And self-centered Sebastian does not reciprocate Charlie’s feelings but, friends since they were 11 years old, they cannot seem to extricate themselves from one another easily.
Meantime, Charlie finds himself passionately attracted to a talented pianist named Tim (Haaz Sleiman). While Tim is a few years older than Charlie, the striking Lebanese musician is smitten with the young Jewish man, and eager to delve into a relationship.
But Charlie emotionally withdraws just as the romance starts to heat up. His hesitation stems not only from his long-lasting love for Sebastian, but possibly from his reluctance to commit to an older guy.
Among the circle of gilded Manhattan pals who do their best to support Sebastian and Charlie in the midst of the bitter scandal and relationship woes are an unemployed banker named London (Meghann Fahy), and a sarcastic writer, Wyatt (Chris Conroy).
A handsome actor from A Most Violent Year and “Grace and Frankie,” Ralph excels at keeping his fallen socialite character both sympathetic and spoiled. And Gordon gives Charlie the sweetest demeanor imaginable; both actors provide flawless performances.
The story does meander a bit, but Other People is not a plot-driven movie so much as a character-driven one. It’s also one of several indie films emerging these days (like another Desperado film, Akron), where the characters’ sexuality seems secondary to the tensions and struggles these people undergo.
Director Joey Kuhn co-wrote the touching screenplay and excels at crafting fully fleshed out characters here. He does an impressive job with this feature debut, and earned an award for Best First U.S. Feature at last year’s OutFest in Los Angeles.
Director of photography Leonardo D’Antoni lends a charming penache to Manhattan’s Upper East Side, framing it up with vintage zoom lenses. And the opulent costumes and set design give the film a classic look that’s impressive in light of the film’s budget.
A stylish film with a tarnished-glitter aesthetic, Those People features relatable characters (warts and all) and universal themes that ring true.
For more information on the Desperado LGBT Film Festival visit desperadofilmfestival.com or pick up the February Issue of Echo Magazine (out Jan. 21).