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Tori, Tori, Tori

[whitespace] 'trick' Photograph by J. Lofaro

Kitchen-Stove Drama: Tori Spelling meets J.P. Pitoc and Christian Campbell during their quest for a quiet trysting place in 'trick.'

'trick' is as meek as its lowercase title

By Richard von Busack

INEVITABLY, trick is no treat. Director Jim Fall's little story is based on one little problem: where can Gabriel (Christian Campbell) and his new pick-up, Mark (John Paul Pitoc), find a place to make love? Their apartments won't do. Gabriel's housemate, who shares a studio with our hero, has a hot date. Mark's landlady doesn't like it when he brings home men--and besides, he lives way out in Brooklyn. So the two make the rounds of New York City at night, trying to borrow friends' apartments.

When this type of farce is done right--as in Martin Scorsese's After Hours--we can take some malevolent glee in watching the way luck conspires to lock the men out of shelter. When it's done badly, the coincidences that build up seem like bad jokes, because, well, they are bad jokes. The events that keep Mark and Gabriel from the clinch seem as unfair as they are unfunny.

The film may sound like hot stuff, but like Eyes Wide Shut it has a solid, square attitude toward casual sex. The story finishes with a moral about how True Love Waits, as the new-celibacy slogan has it. Gabriel makes it known that he doesn't want to be thought of as "a queen."

To reinforce his normality--and Christian Campbell's Gabriel is stark raving normal--Fall throws in some other stereotypes for comic effect: the cuddly, flamboyant Perry (Steve Hayes), who likes to sing at piano bars, and his opposite, a spooky drag queen named "Coco Peru" (Clinton Leupp), who corners Gabriel in the men's room at a gay bar. Fall photographs Leupp as if she were Joan Crawford in her hatchet-wielding days.

As Gabriel's best friend, Katherine, Tori Spelling has received praise for her good sportspersonship in playing a mediocre actress. At the beginning of trick, Spelling does a clumsy musical comedy dance, impaling a radiator with her parasol, sweating, panting and cracking her high notes. Compare the dance with Parker Posey's stiff-limbed twirl to "Teacher's Pet" in Waiting for Guffman. There, Posey showed the hunger underneath her character's dearth of talent. Watching it, you couldn't really laugh; it was too mesmerizingly bad.

In Spelling's version, her ineptness is just a dumb joke within a dumb joke. I can't really blame the ineffable Tori, because all the other women in trick are equally silly. (The film would have been better if drag queens had played all the women; the caricaturing would look a lot less ugly.)

In her worst scene, Spelling goes off on a noisy tirade about not having any lesbian tendencies. The scene is vintage bad Tori, cruel to viewer and performer alike. The immobility of Spelling's heavy chin, the stolid cluelessness of the popped eyes, the mechanical flutter of her eyelashes--all have been noted at length elsewhere. Spelling is one of the least natural actresses of the past 10 years. Of course, she'll get an "E" for effort if she keeps up her slumming in low-watt independent movies like this. She embodies their stagey, inept spirit.

trick (R; 90 min.), directed by Christian Campbell, written by Jason Schafer and starring Christian Campbell, John Paul Pitoc and Tori Spelling, plays at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the July 29-August 4, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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