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Florida Film Festival 2014 movie reviews

Not sure what flicks to catch at this year’s fest? Use our reviews as your guide

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'American Jesus'

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'The Babadook'

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Before You Know It
★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Documentary features
As with most LGBT documentaries that have come before it – or just about any of the documentaries built around making the case for an unknown issue by applying real voices to the generally voiceless – Before You Know It isn’t without its merits. The premise here is that three gay men in their senior years – Dennis, Ty and Robert (“The Mouth,” somewhat hilariously) – have been effectively left behind in the advances toward equality of recent years. These are, after all, men who came up in a different civil rights era, men who were taught never to speak of their gayness, men who were (in one case, anyway) happily married to women who apparently agreed to their place in the social contract of wedded bliss. And if you’ve ever spent an afternoon in a gay bar or at an LGBT center, they’re a lot like the men you already know.

Dennis, something of a hoarder who lives in a double-wide in Niceville, Fla., feels oppressed by the fact that he doesn’t get hits on gay cruising websites, walks around in half-drag (but only in his house, because good heavens!), and spends some time in a questionable gay-themed retirement home where he’s asked, a bit torturously, for his feelings on Lady Gaga. Robert is a bar hound with a seeming daily schedule at the local watering hole where the walls are covered in pictures of men in classic drag, including himself as (horribly rendered, at least in this film) Carol Channing. Ty, the most redeeming of the bunch, is an activist for gay African-American seniors who, charmingly, has found love with another man in a way he didn’t expect.

Though not a totally effective portrait of what the challenges facing a long-ignored Boomer segment of the gay population are, the film does manage to remind us of the camp from which many of us have blossomed. Though, at times it just seems like people you know hamming it up for the camera. – Billy Manes

Chu and Blossom
★★★ (out of 5 stars)

Program: Special screenings, Florida film
Joonsup Chu is as awkward as he is tall and as unprepared for life in the United States as he would be for life on the moon. The South Korean exchange student finds himself struggling to make sense of his temporary life in Tampa, where he comes to live with a stereotypically whackjob host family (mother and son) who neither appreciate him nor understand him. His fellow students don’t want him on their teams, don’t talk to him and really don’t care that he’s a brilliant student who’s in the United States to get a better education so he can prepare for his future career as a structural engineer.

Fortunately, a few more stereotypically wacky characters – like performance artist Butch Blossom, who is dressed in a meat suit and followed by a pack of dogs when Chu first spies him across a football field – and a pretty, pink-haired classmate take him under their wings and help him, well, blossom.

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