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Looking for Closure – A Television Movie Review By Christopher Stone

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Alternately wistful and moody, raunchy, rowdy, and blue, HBO’s Looking: The Movie, is a mirror reflection of the half-hour series that spawned this 84-minute denouement.

Looking’s trio of leads - left to right: Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), Patrick (Jonathan Groff), and Dom (Murray Bartlett)
Looking’s trio of leads – left to right: Augustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), Patrick (Jonathan Groff), and Dom (Murray Bartlett)

Looking’s series version opened with its pretty boy hero, Patrick Murray (Jonathan Groff), hooking up with a random dude in a public park.

The ending of HBO’s taut Looking movie – it premiered last month – reveals that the very same sexy hero – the one who sought anonymous park sex – is now ready and willing, if not necessarily able, to go for the real stuff in life.

In between the first episode of the weekly series and the movie’s final fadeout, Looking, offers a character-driven, often melancholy, low-tech examination of gay friends, looking for sex, love, and emotional connections without sacrificing themselves, or their other ambitions, upon the altar of high glucose romance.

Across two seasons and eighteen episodes, HBO’s Looking was always grittier, more cerebral, less flashy and frenetic than Showtime’s vastly more popular Queer as Folk. After Looking debuted in January 2014, gay fans that had hoped for a QAF-style full-frontal sensory assault were disappointed by the series slow, thought-provoking point of view. They didn’t stick around for subsequent episodes, and second season renewal was Looking’s biggest freshman season cliffhanger.

Looking’s small, but devoted, fan base heaved a collective sigh of relief when the second season renewal was finally announced. . What some called “boring,” the Looking faithful dubbed an introspective and intellectually edgy glimpse into the less fabulous aspects of the gay experience – you know, the glitter-free facets of gay life that had been largely ignored by other series, and movies.

Start to finish, Looking always displayed a singular talent for long, important conversations between characters who loved one another – even between those characters that were not “in love” with one another. These lengthy insightful discourses were frequently set against visually breathtaking San Francisco Bay vistas; other times, they were played out on the city’s dirty, twisted mean streets, or inside gritty clubs pulsing with music.

Looking: The Movie reflects everything the fan base loved about the series. Nothing extraneous made the final cut; the movie is filmmaking at its leanest and most economical.

 

Looking creator Andrew Haigh was the auteur behind the gay cult classic Weekend.
Looking creator Andrew Haigh was the auteur behind the gay cult classic Weekend.

Looking series creator, Andrew Haigh, directed and co-wrote this movie version. Last year, he directed the big-screen, award-winning gem, 45 Years, starring the incomparable Charlotte Rampling, an actress whose screen career has spanned more years than the movie’s title. She received an Oscar nomination.

Our community best knows Andrew Haigh as the filmmaker behind 2011’s gay cult classic, Weekend.

Looking’s Patrick Murray (Jonathan Groff) has experienced substantial personal development and growth across the series two seasons and this movie parting shot.
Looking’s Patrick Murray (Jonathan Groff) has experienced substantial personal development and growth across the series two seasons and this movie parting shot.

Jonathan Groff, the actor who plays Looking’s Patrick Murray, both in the series and in this movie, has more recently been thrilling Broadway audiences as King George in Hamilton.

He took a leave of absence from the landmark Broadway musical to film Looking: The Movie. In his absence, The Book of Mormon’s Andrew Rannells, known to TV viewers as a star of Girls and The New Normal, took his place. Groff is now back on Broadway, lording it over The Great White Way in the twenty-first century’s biggest stage success.

At thirty, Groff’s Patrick Murray, is still a traveler on the road to self-acceptance, self-understanding, and love. The movie has him returning to San Francisco from Denver, after a six-month absence, for the wedding of Looking’s antihero, Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez), a tortured artist, with an edgy, checkered past.

As the movie opens, Augustin is about to tie the knot with his HIV Positive boyfriend. But he is conflicted about the decision. Do his pending nuptials represent selling out, or is he taking the best step of his dicey life?

And then there is Dom Basaluzzo. Of Looking’s three male leads, Dom, played by Australian, Murray Bartlett, is faring the best of the trio. His Chicken Window restaurant is thriving, and he’s considering a second location. Does it really matter if he’s forty-two and still single?  Dom is living the dream; at least he is, professionally speaking.

One of the most satisfying aspects of Looking: The Movie is seeing the series characters have developed and grown since we left them at the end of Season Two.

Russell Tovey, as Kevin Matheson has been one of Looking’s most popular semi-regulars.
Russell Tovey, as Kevin Matheson has been one of Looking’s most popular semi-regulars.

But make no mistake: Looking: The Movie is a standalone event. You need not have watched the series in order to enjoy and understand this highly satisfying farewell. For those who did not watch the series version, reminders of what has come before pepper the film.

Most Looking fans will find sweet closure with the movie. Not everything is tied up in a perfect knot before the final fadeout. But we are most definitely pointed toward each character’s most probable future.

As for newbies to Looking’s compelling, motley characters: Here’s a thought-stimulating, sexy entertainment that will likely cause you to surf over to HBO GO in order to binge watch the series version’s eighteen half hours.

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