Sometimes, you watch a film and you just get this sense of "Man, they're trying so hard." You try yourself to love the film. You want desperately to love the film, because it's incredibly obvious that those involved with the film are trying incredibly hard to create an original and entertaining artistic film.
But, you just can't. For any number of reasons, sometimes a film simply doesn't really work and such is the case with Leather, a wannabe gay comedy shot with a 70's aesthetic and a folk soundtrack about modern gay urbanites forced to adjust to country living. Andrew (Andrew Glaszek) is a New Yorker who finds out that his estranged father has passed away. He travels with his boyfriend Kyle (Jeremy Neal) to the cabin in the Catskills Mountains where his father had spent his last few years only to discover that his childhood friend, Birch (Chris Graham), is living in the cabin and has been getting "mentored" by his late father for the past few years in what appears to be the fine arts of carpentry and, um, leather.
While Birch lives a rather peaceful existence, his presence leaves Andrew with a wild array of emotions including regret, jealousy, wariness and, of course, that all too popular desire.
Written by Greg Chandler and directed by Patrick McGuinn (Sun Kissed), Leather has had a successful festival run that included appearances at Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs and Philly's QFest before landing at the doorstep of QC Cinema, the LGBT indie distribution arm for Breaking Glass Pictures.
There is an incredibly unique and entertaining film waiting to be discovered somewhere inside Leather, but the biggest problem with the film is that no one can seem to decide what the film is really meant to be. While the film seems intended to exist somewhere within the boundaries of an emotionally resonant heartfelt comedy, Leather's pacing is such that the film spends far too much time being thoughtful and thought-provoking to truly be an effective comedy. While the performances aren't bad, they are inconsistent in ranging from surprisingly vulnerable to bordering on cavalier.
The atmosphere, ranging from that 70's aesthetic to the banjo-tinged acoustic guitar strum along music to even the folksie cinematography, never quite gels together into a cohesive and believable universe into which this story should be set.
Now then, if it sounds so far like I found Leather to be a completely abysmal film I can assure that such is not the case. In particular, I found myself enchanted by Chris Graham's comfortable performance as Birch, a Catskills planted peacenick with a casual sense about himself and such a matter-of-fact nature that it would be completely impossible to not adore him. Of course, I couldn't help but chuckle to myself when it occurred to me that should anyone ever try to make an Amish LGBT film that Graham may very well be the "go to" actor.
But, I digress.
Leather isn't a bad film and it will definitely click with a population of folks seeking a softer and more light-hearted LGBT cinematic experience. While there is some sex to be found in the film, it's of the softer variety that is seldom present within the indie LGBT scene.
Leather hits the street on 12/3/13, though you can pre-order the film through the Breaking Glass Pictures website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic