The Fluffer Review

It's somehow heartening that the doom-laden seriousness of most Hollywood films about gay life has been rejected by independent gay filmmakers in favour of a more rounded, lighthearted approach to issues close to their hearts. The Fluffer isn't quite in the same class as Bruce LaBruce's magnificent Super 8 1/2 (a film which is about as far away from something like Philadelphia as its possible to get and incredibly, outrageously funny at the same time) but for at least half the running time it's a breath of fresh air after the horrible liberal pieties of Priest and the like.

A fluffer, for those of you unfortunate enough to be unacquainted with the delights of porn, gay or straight, is an assistant whose job is to ensure that the male performer in a sex scene attains and keeps his erection in between scenes, with a particular responsibility for ensuring that the cum shot - 'money shot' for those in the trade - is delivered on schedule. The Fluffer introduces us to Sean McGinnis (Cunio), a would-be director whose skill with a camera gets him a job with "Men Of Janus" video. Claiming to be bisexual, Sean has been keen to get into the company ever since inadvertantly renting "Citizen Cum" starring Janus' biggest star, Johnny Rebel (Gurney). His attraction to Johnny, or Mikey as he is generally known, leads him to assist his idol during a particularly stressful sex scene with a spot of much-needed fluffing. Unfortunately, Sean doesn't realise that Mikey is straight and does gay porn because it pays better - in other words, he is strictly "gay for pay" and doesn't kiss, fellate or 'bottom' for other men. Mikey, already seriously confused in his relationship with Babylon, an exotic dancer, becomes impotent on film without the assistance of Sean. As if this wasn't enough stress, he finds out that he's about to become a father, a discovery which sends him off on a coke-fuelled breakdown.

For about forty minutes, this is a witty, pointed satire on the gay porn industry with pitch-perfect performances and some exquisitely bitchy dialogue. The parodies of hardcore gay movies are killingly funny with realistically moronic dialogue; "Guess we're gonna have to plow through this city boy..."; and the exchange with the pool boy; "So, do you do anything apart from clean pools ?", "I fuck..." Michael Cunio has a fresh and likeable presence as the naive Sean, desperately trying to understand his sexuality as he falls in love with as unsuitable a man as it would be possible to imagine and Scott Gurney is the stuff of a thousand homoerotic wet dreams as Mikey, but he adds an edge of wounded pride and confusion which makes the character more than just a slice of beefcake. There's a sharp sense of cynical realism which is just malicious enough without being plain spiteful and which clearly comes from Wash West's own career in gay porn. Along with the expected insights into the business - "We never use real names, it's too personal" - and some excellent one-liners - "Kid, we're not talking about sex here, this is pornography" - there is a poignant sense of the sheer emptiness of sex sold as a commodity and how fantasy based purely on sex can become a substitute for genuine emotional connection.

Unfortunately, many of these merits vanish once Mikey gets addicted to drugs and is fired from his job with Men Of Janus. His downward spiral is so predictable that you could probably mouth the dialogue along with him. When a colleague is found dead and Mikey goes on the run, it's hard to describe what sinking feeling this viewer experienced. Sean turns from a likeable dreamer into a slightly creepy obsessive, going to get a lapdance from Mikey's girlfriend simply to torture himself. As the two men go on the run together, the film becomes a formulaic road movie - and not a very good one at that. I would have been extremely disappointed with this had it not been for a small miracle. Somehow, in the last ten minutes, the filmmakers manage to pull out of the hat a moving and oddly poetic climax which is as totally right as the previous 40 minutes have been wrong. And then, goddamit, it finishes with the Buzzcocks singing "Ever Fallen' In Love" over the end credits, a move which immediately gains brownie points from this reviewer.

So, OK, this isn't Boogie Nights - although it would be fair to remember that even P.T,Anderson's film fell messily apart during the last hour or so. But the mileu of gay video porn is unfamiliar enough to be interesting in itself and the razor sharp observations are worth a look for themselves. It's only the second feature for Richard Glatzer and the first mainstream work by Wash West, and it's certainly shows lots of promise for the future. The cameos by a variety of porn stars are fun too - Ron Jeremy predicatably comes across most engagingly - and it's always nice to see Deborah Harry, even looking as old as she does here. Needless to say, this is not for the easily offended nor those who think homosexuality is a sin against the laws of God, nature or Mary Whitehouse. That still leaves quite a few of us, thankfully. The Fluffer is a messy film but it's also honest, funny and touching.

The Disc

This is a typical disc from Metrodome in every sense. The quality of the transfer is adequate and the extras are minimal. Few of the extras from the R1 Special Edition are present but it's just about worth a look.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 format. The picture quality varies from good to poor, the darker scenes notably less impressive than the bright exteriors. The colours, often startling, are vivid and full and there is a reasonable level of detail. But there is a noticable excess of artifacting in places and some grain present throught.

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is efficient but unmemorable. Little use is made of the surround channels, much of the sound being limited to the front right and left, and barely anything from the subwoofer. Dialogue is clear and the music track is strong.

The extras include a trailer, quite well put together, and filmographies for the filmmakers and some of the cast. Best of all, surprisingly, are the extensive and revealing production notes which are, for once, well worth reading. For some reason, there are no subtitles which is a shame. Surely this should be standard for all discs by now.

An enjoyable if deeply flawed film, The Fluffer deserves a wider audience than it will probably get. This R2 DVD is just about acceptable but the film had potential to make a much better disc than the one we have been given.

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