Tag Archives: Defying Gravity

Defying Gravity

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Because you didn’t know she felt the same way about you… or if she did, for some reason it wasn’t okay… thought that people wouldn’t like it. And one day, after months, years, it’s just another day, nothing special, just the two of you. For some reason everyone’s out of the house. You can’t turn back, you can’t let go, you can’t stop – as if you were one person, defying gravity, together.

–John ‘Griff’ Griffith, Defying Gravity

I came across an article the other day about the MPAA creating a new website so that people can find legitimate and legal movies for download. I noticed that one of the websites was Wolfe Video. If you’ve ever watched a fair amount of gay cinema, you have no doubt come across Wolfe Video, the oldest and largest exclusive distributor of gay and lesbian films in North America. As I was looking through WolfeOnDemand, I came across one of my all time favorite LGBT movies, Defying Gravity.

Defying Gravity was filmed in just 13 days using a cast largely of first-time actors, the film played the gay and lesbian film festival circuit in 1997 and 1998. It is an earnest, heart-felt movie. While its edges are rough, both in terms of the performances and the filmmaking, it’s these rough edges that actually make the movie feel more real in a way that polished Hollywood acting and production values would undermine. One could complain that it is yet another coming out story, and in many ways it is, but it’s an effective one.
John ‘Griff’ Griffith (Daniel Chilson) is a college student who lives in a frat house with your typical college guys. Everyone is assumed to be straight, and the majority of brothers are. Griff wants to belong, but as a young gay man, he feels a certain amount of isolation. Because of his wanting to fit in, he remains in the closet despite the efforts of his boyfriend Pete (Don Handfield) to help him come to terms with his identity. Finally, a crisis forces Griff to take a stand for himself and for Pete. Yes, anyone who has seen more than a few gay-themed movies or TV shows will have seen this plot. But it is handled in such an honest and affecting way that you will forgive it.
What sets this movie apart are the character relationships. Griff’s interesting relationships with best friend Todd (Niklaus Lange), with Todd’s girlfriend Heather (Leslie Tesh), with fellow student Denetra (Linna Carter), and with Pete’s father are what helps us to forgive the cliched elements of the plot. Of particular note are the relationships with Todd and with Pete’s father. Their reactions to Griff’s relationship with Pete are not what you have come to expect from coming out films. It makes for a refreshing change of pace, and writer/director John Keitel deserves credit for putting new spins on these stock characters.
The acting never really rises above college drama student level, but that works for a movie about college students. Chilson, Lange, Tesh, and Carter all act earnestly and come across as believable college kids in ways that technically-trained performers might not. There is one particular scene when Griff goes to see Pete in the hospital. Griff utters one word, “Man….” He utters it in a long drawn out way, that melted my heart. Any flaws in the film were forgotten for me when I heard that line.
I hope you will give this little movie a chance.

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