By Hans Pedersen, July 2015 Issue.
In the opening scenes of Tiger Orange, a young boy steals his older brother’s gay porn magazine. Soon, the two young brothers are fighting over who gets to read the beefcake publication, until their father gets a hold of it. He winds up punishing the younger one, Todd, while Chet escapes most of his father’s wrath.
These sneak peeks into the bothers’ past shape the characters we see as the film explores their lives following their father’s death. Written and directed by Wade Gasque, this LGBT indie is now available on several digital platforms and comes to video July 7.
It’s not often we see a story about two gay brothers. The responsible one, Chet, runs the family business in a small central California town. Meanwhile, his wayward sibling, Todd, returns home broke, homeless and looking for a place to crash after his acting career on Los Angeles didn’t pan out.
While Chet clearly loves his tattooed bro, it’s also evident that long-buried resentment is causing strife in their relationship: Chet resents Todd for leaving him alone to take care of their ailing father.
Chet decides to go on a date with Brandon, a guy he messed around with in high school, despite a little awkwardness that ensued after their hookup. But since Todd has a history of moving in on Chet’s prospective love interests, a night at home with the three men ultimately turns into a heated confrontation.
Mark Strano, a skilled actor whose performance shows similar tendencies of trying too hard, portrays Chet. Strano co-wrote the film with Gasque, Frankie Valenti, aka adult film star Johnny Hazzard, plays Todd and he capitalizes on his sexy charm in the bad boy role. This is one of his first movies in his IMDb filmography that doesn’t feature a racy word or XXX in the title.
Valenti unleashes his sex appeal in several shirtless scenes, and there’s a flash of frontal nudity to satisfy fans of films like Johnny Hazzard: Feed the Need.
But the hot star also proves he’s got real acting chops, and plenty of on-screen charisma. However, he does fall into the trap that trips up so many new Hollywood actors: trying to deliver a line just right. We should never see any actor trying so hard, but we should see a lot more of Valenti in other films because the guy has talent.
Some of the trouble may be the dialogue, which veers into unbelievable territory a couple of times. “I idolized you,” Todd tells Chet in a plaintive way that rings false – how often do brothers really say that to one another?
And while there’s charm and a bit of terror in the scenes of those two young brothers, those flashbacks are handled clumsily, hampering the storytelling in the first act. Nonetheless, it’s easy to empathize with both characters.
And despite a few times when the film falls short, there are plenty of believable moments and scenes that genuinely click. At one point, Todd remarks off-handedly to his brother, “How do you live around so many straight people?!” in a way that delivers.
Todd is a defiant wild guy who isn’t about to conform to the subtle homophobia he sees in their community. Chet, on the other hand, doesn’t always recognize that saying “don’t shove it in our faces” is actually code language for “don’t act gay.”
The film’s title, Tiger Orange actually refers to a loud paint color that Chet sells to a somewhat homophobic customer at the hardware store toward the end of the film, pointing out “it’s OK to have your house painted the loudest color on the block.”
Much of the dialogue is smart, and the film is well-paced, edited in such a way that the character-driven story keeps moving. Unique musical selections by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch also help make this unique film gel.
Despite the initial clunky storytelling and a few moments that seem hollow, Tiger Orange is engaging and entertaining. The characters are truly likable and Valenti is memorable enough that you just may want to see more of him.