DADDY : Gerald McCullouch sublimes gay cinema at the WFF
Yesterday, Gerald McCullouch was nervous. Understandably so, as the actor/producer poured his heart and soul into DADDY, his labor of love. If Gerald was nervous about attendance, he shouldn’t have worried. Quite a few gays of prominence in Montreal were at the screening. The rest that were not there can always mend this oversight, and be part of the second screening, which will happen tonight at the Quartier Latin cinema.
Gerald McCullouch, at the brief opening speech of the premiere
Kudos to the Montreal World Film Festival for making a step in the right direction, by catering to the needs of all the cinephiles at the festival, not just a select few. The selection this year is rich, varied, and, so far, exempt from the problems that plagued the WFF’s movie programming in the past. Are reporters and moviegoers alike witnessing a rededication to the core of the festival, the movies? Only time will tell.
But back to the matter at hand, that little gem from McCullouch. The story is deceptively simple. Colin McCormack (McCullouch) has it all. An enviable job, all the luxuries in life a single gay man can enjoy, a best friend of many years, good looks, and irresistible to other gay men. Colin is what we call a daddy, a man with a mature look, but looking for younger men. And the line to share a night with him is quite long. Take a number, please. To fans of CSI, the outspoken gay actor will be an instantly-recognizable face, as Bobby Dawson. But his stage, TV and movie credits are quite long, and you may see him all over the place, from Beverly Hills 90210 to the BearCity movie series.
Dan Via and Gerald McCullouch, at the question period after the movie
Dan Via is Stewart Wisniewski, or Stew, Colin's best friend. Apparently much less lucky in the looks and love department, he is nonetheless essential to Colin, being the voice of wisdom and friendship. He will be instrumental to the confrontation that will bare the souls of all concerned. This fine actor can be seen notably in the TV series Anyone but Me, where he plays the character of Gabe McMillan. He delighted the audience at the screening in answering a few questions in french.
The trio is completed by Tee Bloom (Jaime Cepero), an intelligent and brilliant 22 years old, with whom Colin will fall in love. But the young man is also hiding a dark secret, which is poisoning his existence. He will take Colin from the skies of success, and throw him in the dark recesses of his own personal hell. This young and relatively new actor can be seen in the TV series Smash, where he plays Ellis Boyd.
Around the trio, we find an ensemble cast of good actors, led by Richard Riehle, as the boss of Colin. To gay audiences, he will be most memorable as Gabe from the BearCity series. However, I recall this prolific actor from his stints in many 90's TV series, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Star Trek Voyager.
The play that became a movie
DADDY, before receiving the movie treatment, was first and foremost a play, written by Dan Via, in which starred Gerald McCullouch and Ian Verdun, who had the part played by Cepero in the movie. Dan was also there as Stew. The play garnered much praise from the specialized press. So much, in fact, that making a movie that exemplified the qualities of the play became a no-brainer. McCullouch started a Kickstarter campaign, which gave the in part the boost needed to make the play step from the theater to the cinema. Many of the people involved gave their time to ensure the success of the venture. As I said earlier, a real labor of love. And what McCullouch and co. made with a shoestring budget is nothing short of miraculous.
A refreshing gay-themed movie
At the heart of DADDY, and heart is the keyword here, are relationships. Credit must be given to the talent of the Via-McCullouch team for making one of the most touching, heartwarming and believable friendships in the history of gay movies. They watch sports together. They bicker. They have heated discussions. The genius of this well-written relationship is that you never believe for one second these two are lovers. They are friends, period. They avoid the friends/lovers trap brilliantly, which could have been so easy to fall into.
Jaime Cepero does a quite believable job as Tee. We can feel the pain of the young man regarding the secrets he has to keep, and his mind constantly torn between his life with Colin, and the subtle religious poison instilled in his young mind by Reverend Lockwood (a creepy role for Jay Jackson, which can be seen usually in newscaster roles). Which, in its way is a stab at the heinous way religions are treating homosexuality and same-sex relationships and couples.
Another theme explored in this movie is work ethics. Colin learns the hard way that work and pleasure do not mix well, and for that, his pride will make him pay the ultimate price. After a brief time wallowing in self-pity, his best friend will put him on the right track.
Technically, kudos are deserved all around for a job well done. Last year, I saw a french movie made with government-funded grants, and most of the money was spent on a lavish premiere, complete with Hollywood-style entrances. Badly acted, continuity errors galore, technically deficient, it was not hard to see where the money did not go.
Not so in DADDY. I was impressed with the sets of the movie. Colin’s lair is especially well done in the neo-industrial chic prevalent in big cities nowadays. The movie also made an creative use of the city of Pittsburgh. In fact, the views that appear in DADDY are an excellent way to familiarize yourself with this city, once renowned for its steel industry, to the point of being called the « Steel City ». Evidence of this is shown in the movie, as Colin jogs his way to his own renaissance, after his self-imposed purgatory.
The music is also another factor of note, as Corey Tut, a really talented singer/songwriter, supplies beautiful music and songs to accompany the fine acting of the cast.
The aftermath of DADDY
I left the screening with a sense of pride about who I am, and my place in the world, something that few movies can do. That was what will remain of DADDY, along with great acting and care. And in it lies the true magic of the movies ; their ability to impart their heart, their soul to the audience, when they are done right. And that DADDY definitely's got it! Chapeau, messieurs Via and McCullouch. You opened wide the doors for truly great gay cinema, that will appeal to everyone.
What? Oh! You want to know what’s this big secret of Tee Bloom? Nuh-uh! Go see the movie!