After Louie explores the contradictions of modern gay life and history through Sam, a man desperate to understand how he and his community got to where they are today.
Sam (Alan C*****g), sits in the dark, reviewing footage of deceased friend William (David Drake) who is planning the details of his inevitable funeral. “I want a Christmas party. Christmas in July. Or September or whenever…” William says trailing off in the realization that death is coming, it’s just not clear when. This is a poignant moment in the new film After Louie, as Sam, a relic of a bygone era, reflects on the plague he survived as AIDS ravaged the gay community in New York City in the 80’s, and where he might be headed.
Sam is suffering an existential crisis. A former painter, he is attempting to create a documentary that pieces the past together in memorial for those who have fallen to HIV and AIDS. His closest friends, gay and straight, have paired up and settled down while he indignantly faces a future where he hasn’t found a home.
“…to create a documentary that pieces the past together in memorial for those who have fallen to HIV and AIDS…”
That is until he meets Braeden (Zachary Booth). The first time the two hook up Sam reflexively stuffs $500 dollars in Braeden’s sneakers. It’s even more of a shocker when Sam finds out that Braeden’s boyfriend is HIV positive and the two have an open relationship. That’s not to mention that payment isn’t something that people expect after casual sex anymore. The two form a relationship, but it flies in the face of everything that Sam has come to understand about himself. The hard-won victories of survival during the AIDS crisis, civil recognition, and equal rights in the gay community are battle scars that Sam wears on his arm like the stripes on a soldier’s uniform.
Friends Jeffrey (Patrick Breen) and Mateo (Wilson Cruz), a loving, committed couple are another thorn in Sam’s side as they ease into “Married” life. These two turncoats seem to have forgotten the fight they have been through and are fine being assimilated into mainstream culture.
After Louie is a thoughtful, yet mono-rhythmic exploration of what it means to be an aging gay male in America. Anchored with a solid performance by C*****g, and sufficient performances throughout, we are treated, and occasionally subjected to, being trapped in Sam’s head. The capricious artist, we get hot and cold, affable and pensive within seconds of each other.
“…where the film glows with the soft warm light of love and acceptance as the characters find their way in a more aware future.”
The script by the film’s director Vincent Gagliostro and writer Anthony Johnston could have used a few more passes to really refine the conflicts that arise and drive the story. The moments in the film feel slightly forced and driven solely by Sam’s predilections and preferences rather than stemming from a fear of change while all of the other supporting people in his life appear to be pretty well adjusted. Why are they all hanging out with this angry gay man anyway?
Even though the film has a plodding pace there are flashes of honesty and brilliance that make this film worth a passive look. Like the aforementioned moment with William in the video at the beginning of the film, we see other bits with Sam’s old friends, fellow survivors, and his artistic peers. That is where the film glows with the soft warm light of love and acceptance as the characters find their way in a more aware future.
After Louie is worth VOD (**).
Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)