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[whitespace] 'Fluffer' Porn to Lose

To say the least, 'The Fluffer' certainly doesn't suck

By Richard von Busack



THE PROBLEM with casting a porn star to play a porn star, claims the movie The Fluffer, is that they're too raw. "The real ones never seem real," says a character here. And yet the film's co-director (with Richard Glatzer), Wash Westmoreland, told NPR's Terri Gross he had a career filming soft-core. Even so, The Fluffer's firsthand inquiries into the love of actors and the love of movies are hardly raw or unreal; the film is sensitive and inspired in a way porn commonly isn't.

New boy in Hollywood Sean (Michael Cunio) sets out to rent Citizen Kane but is accidentally given a copy of Citizen Cum instead. He's struck with first love at the sight of the arrogant star, Johnny Rebel, an all-male porn god whose real name is Mikey (Scott Gurney). Sean applies for and lands a job as a cameraman under the direction of the jaded director Sam (Richard Riehle, the grouchy granddad on Grounded for Life, demonstrating a credible nasty side). Wanting to get close to his idol, Sean voluntarily becomes a fluffer--the person who orally helps sagging porn stars.

Unfortunately, Sean's in love with a man whose first love is himself. Mike considers himself gay for pay, with a strict agenda of what he will do and won't do on-camera. Moreover, he has a live-in girlfriend, "Babylon" (Roxanne Day), who has just found out that she's pregnant. The anti-hero's relations with both sexes prove not that he's straight or gay but that he's a heartless narcissist.

The tragicomedy (but mostly comedy) of unrequited love takes place against a colorful, fly-by-night world where, as Sean says, "Even the dull people are interesting." The directors capture authentic-looking details--not just the surreal shoots, but the money men showing up looking for bucks and people doing tiresome clerical work (pasting labels onto video cassettes of The Iceman Cummeth). When Sean complains, "Working in porn messes people up," his co-worker Silver (Adina Portner, very good here) replies, "Working at Kmart messes people up; working in Hollywood messes people up."

The last third of the film wanders before coming to its serious point: that the consummation Sean needs from Johnny has nothing to do with sex. Flashbacks about Sean's past--about why he loves someone who can't love him back--may be a little superfluous. See, Sean's motivation is clear to any movie watcher, particularly to those who'd make the rewarding effort to seek out The Fluffer. You'd no more have to be gay to appreciate this first-rate film than you'd have to be gay to understand the emotions of the film's closing title song, the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love?" The way we fall in love with images on a screen transcends sexual preference. And that indescribable quality that lures viewers to surrender themselves to images--as The Fluffer suggests--is as present in low porn as it is in legitimate movies.


The Fluffer (Unrated, 95 min.), directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, written by Westmoreland, photographed by Mark Putnam and starring Michael Cunio and Scott Gurney, opens Friday (April 5) at the Towne Theater in San Jose.


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Web extra to the April 4-10, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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