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Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss Review

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A gay photographer falls in love with his model.

★★★★★

A sensation at Sundance, this fickle picture repeatedly makes promises it fails to keep. The opening voice-over asserts that what follows will demonstrate that there's no difference between gays and straights, only to prove exactly the opposite for the next 80 odd minutes. It then tells us not to be fooled by looks, only to place considerably more emphasis on style than on content. Yet for all its broken vows, this is a sweet movie that fully lives up to its closing credit, "A Tommy O'Haver Trifle".

Billy (Hayes) is a struggling Polaroid artist planning a series recreating the great screen kisses. Drinking coffee with flatmate Georgiana (Scott Lynn), he meets Gabriel (Rowe), a gorgeous musician who would be the perfect model for his snaps. But Gabriel has a girlfriend and seems as keen to collaborate with a rival shutterbug (Bartel) as he is to commit to Billy.For a debutant, O'Haver has a well-developed pictorial sense. Taking his visual cues from Douglas Sirk, he makes over a flimsy Doris Day tale of comic chastity with all manner of decorative touches. Drag queen and one-time Warhol acolyte Holly Woodlawn belts out a couple of camp classics, while From Here To Eternity, Vertigo and '30s tuxedo musicals inspire some teasingly twee dream sequences.

But the script is nowhere near sharp enough, settling for a run through some familiar "will he, won't he" foreplay before heading off heartbreak with another pretty face. The characterisation is also shallow, with gays being witty and creative, while straights are either doltish sex slaves, dope fiends or manipulative narcissists.

Handsomely staged and amiably played, but this eye candy is essentially a cinematic snack.

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