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[whitespace] Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss
Friends in Need: Gay photographer Billy (Sean P. Hayes) confers with Georgiana (Meredith Scott Lynn), his sassy straight-girl best pal, in 'Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss.'

A breezy gay comedy toys with Tinsel Town dreams and the meaning of camp

By Michelle Goldberg

THE CLOSING credits of Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss call the film "A Tommy O'Haver trifle," and the reason this wispy gay romance works is because director/screenwriter O'Haver never pretends that it is anything more than that. A breezy, silly L.A. story about an earnest gay photographer obsessed with a supposedly straight model, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss makes the similarly themed Object of My Affection seem like Angels in America. But the film has a certain cotton-candy appeal, filled as it is with cute banter, gorgeous boys and to-die-for interior decorating.

In an opening monologue, Billy lightly bemoans the fact that no matter what else he does, the world sees him as--first and foremost--gay. "Contrary to popular belief," he says, "all of us don't get laid all the time. Some of us long for kids and a country house and a white picket fence." Despite this early jab at the rainbow ghetto, though, O'Haver trots out the whole gamut of queer stereotypes, from the camp-obsessed protagonist (with a sassy straight-girl best friend, Georgiana) to a lecherous older art star and a vacant pretty boy. There's even a Greek chorus of drag queens sashaying through musical interludes. The slight plot and abundant gimmicks are all amusing, but we've also seen them all before. The film version of Jeffrey used fantasy Hollywood sequences much more inventively. Here, all we get are lukewarm riffs on From Here to Eternity and other obvious allusions that are meant to give us a peek into Billy's lovesick mind. Unbearable lightness aside, though, Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is adorable. The frivolous party scenes are glittery and playful, abounding with caricatures of Hollywood pretentiousness. One nicely absurd touch is a character who shows up everywhere in different subcultural drag--he's a swinger in one scene, then a leather boy, a beatnik in a black beret and a surfer.

Most of the other laughs come at the expense of boorish straight men or from the sandpapery repartee between Billy and Georgiana. As Billy, Sean P. Hayes (a former member of the Chicago improv group Second City) is both casually sexy and delightfully shy and fumbling. Meredith Scott Lynn, who plays Georgiana, is brash, insouciant and tremendously likable, except when she's forced to act like a flaky Buddhist in moments that clash with her otherwise down-to-earth character. Brad Rowe, who plays Billy's angel-faced love interest Gabriel, is almost a contemporary Joe Dallesandro, a blank screen on which Billy projects his fantasies. In fact, the way Billy constructs a melodrama around Gabriel mirrors the way gay men once appropriated the romance of Golden Age film heroines to imbue their own struggles with a touch of glamour. All the old-movie references even hint that Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss is a bit of an allegory about the meaning of camp and the happy delusions of cinema. Perhaps that's reading too much into O'Haver's use of gay clichés, but the parallel gives this fluffy confection of a film its only hints of depth and resonance.

Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss (R; 89 min.), directed and written by Tommy O'Haver, photographed by Mark Mervis and starring Sean P. Hayes, Brad Rowe and Meredith Scott Lynn.

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From the August 6-13, 1998 issue of Metro.

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