- Main News
By Nathan James
Pride Weekend In New York City has become a signature event in the LGBT community, a celebration of the beginning of the gay-rights movement which continues to this day. The celebrations, ceremonies and parties are legendary, and this biggest of all Pride Month happenings is also the setting for Patrik Ian Polk’s (Noah’s Arc, Punks, Noah’s Arc: Jumping The Broom) latest film, The Skinny. This independent release tells the story of five friends, a year out of Brown University, who reunite in the city for Pride.
The whirlwind escapades of the group take us from the lighthearted to the deadly serious, with reality bites about such issues as date rape, HIV prevention, and how “bottoms” prep for sex with their lovers (!). The friends, centered around Magnus (Jussie Smollett) discover truths about each other that are at turns both devastating and hilarious, as when lesbian Langston (played with a delightful British accent by Shanika Warren-Markland), smitten with Jennia Frederiques’s Samantha, a fetching, sassy bartender, can’t muster the courage to ask her out.
Nepohyte lover Sebastian (Blake Young-Fountain) has a crush on the slippery Kyle (Anthony Burrell), and soon discovers that his unrequited crush is not all he imagines him to be. Rounding out the group of friends is the laconic Joey, played by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, whose back-and-forth running commentary with Langston is hilarious.
As the weekend progresses, the admittedly ‘in-house’ film–mainstream audiences may find their ears burning at some of the more candid and graphic depictions of our gay life–brings the audience into the sobering issues that lurk beneath the floats and rainbow flags of NYC Pride. Shot entirely on location in the Big Apple, the film delves into the dangers of drug abuse, HIV exposure, and trust issues when one partner in a would-be relationship is extremely promiscuous.
Polk, who wrote, directed, produces, edited, and performed most of the soundtrack, places his characters in moments both trying and endearing, as when Magnus helps Sebastian recover from a devastating experience of being raped after getting drugged at a club. Says Polk, “I tried to tell a challenging story about us.”
As the interweaving subplots take us through actual Pride events (the film was shot during Harlem Pride and the Heritage Of Pride March, something Polk says he planned from the first), we learn about new treatments for early HIV exposure (PreP), as Noah’s Arc star Darryl Stephens makes a cameo as Nurse Nicholson (according to Polk, Noah has NOT moved to NYC and taken up nursing), and Wilson Cruz as the doctor educates Sebastian (and us) on this new procedure. Finding Me star Derrick L. Briggs plays against type as a bad guy, and familiar faces from the NYC LGBT community are sprinkled liberally throughout the movie.
All in all, The Skinny is a fine Pride Month romp, with a few minor missteps, as when Kyle fesses up to his friends about his slip-up with Sebastian at the club–we never do get to see how the group responds to it–but the overall impact of a film about LGBT’s of color, made by LGBT people of color, transcends this. The fiim opens today in NYC at the Faison Firehouse Theater, 6 Hancock Place in Harlem (off 124th street between St. Nicholas and Morningside), and at the Quad on W. 13th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Visit www.skinnythemovie.com for showtimes and dates.