With a name like Showboy, I'm sure you're thinking this pseudo-mockumentary must be as campy as the unintended female box office bomb it gets its name from, huh? Think again.
In Blair Witch Project style, this movie keeps you wondering if it is real or scripted. Personally, I think it succeeds much better in seeming real. First, because star Christian Taylor seems to truly be experiencing the emotional ups and downs (mostly downs) that he faces throughout the film. Not to mention, much of the footage does seem like stuff that got caught on camera accidentally by a film crew following a would-be Vegas dancer around, because so much of it seems unimportant and uninteresting.
That's part of the problem with this film. It has gotten rave reviews (I've even heard talk of howls of laughter in theaters), but I don't particularly care, because I found it took too long to get interesting—and by the time that happened, the movie was rushing towards its finish. But I digress from the setup. Whether the plot is fact or fiction, Christian Taylor is a scriptwriter for Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball. It just so happens he has a film crew following him, making a documentary about his life as a writer for a hit TV show. But then Christian gets fired by Alan Ball, and doesn't have the heart to tell his stalking film crew that their documentary is about to have a very unexpected ending. So he runs off to Vegas, and soon convinces the film crew that he's doing research for next season's plotline—by trying to become a Vegas dancer. Problem is, the film crew is secretly aware that he was fired, and continues to follow him from audition to audition in hopes of getting him to admit the truth to them.
Okay, now about the problems. The movie begins interestingly enough, with the cast of Six Feet Under receiving an award for their show. Then, Christian gets fired by Alan, and we're off to Vegas. But, despite the glitzy, campy, sexy image on the DVD case (stolen from a scene that was actually deleted from the movie!), what we get instead is the behind-the-scenes, gloomy, dream shattering truth of life as a wanna-be Vegas dancer. We follow Christian from audition to audition, through one disappointment after another, as he suffers from self-esteem issues that even take him as far as a plastic surgeon. It is approximately 37 minutes into the film where things pick up. The number one issue is that it seems the movie tried to trick straight audiences into a false sense of security before finally revealing that this was somewhat of a gay movie (unfortunately, not enough of one). 37 minutes of a movie called Showboy with few signs of gay sensibilities. Know what that means? No camp for 37 minutes. But finally, Christian talks to his roommate Joe (Daley) about being gay, and Joe has a bit of a cliché discussion about it that we've all heard before. The highlight of the film was Christian's sexy dance with an adorable instructor named Aaron. Also, there's the audition he goes on to be an exotic dancer, and we finally get to see some male flesh. Other than those two scenes, this movie just lacks gay camp. There's a cameo by Whoopi Goldberg, and she shines in typical Whoopi fashion, as well as a lame cameo by Siegrfried and Roy (don't even ask if it was before the tragedy). Perhaps the movie was just marketed wrong, but in the end, if the intention was to show how tragic the life is for struggling Vegas dancers, they succeeded. Most often I felt myself pitying Christian rather than laughing with him. I can't picture large groups of old showbiz-loving queens watching this film and laughing uproariously. If anything, my guess is it may touch upon things that will most be related to by those in similar situations as Christian. And finally, the bottom of the gay cliché barrel for me in this film was that the movie closed using Donna Summer's "Last Dance". I adore Donna ever since I was a child, have all her recordings (even some SHE doesn't know she recorded), but if I want to hear this particular song as the "last dance" at any time, I'll go to a heterosexual wedding.
The aspect ratio is 1:85:1 anamorphic, enhanced for widescreen TVs, despite the fact that the DVD case states simply "letterbox." This is an impressive print, with few signs of flaws. The film is grainy now and then, but it appears to be for effect, since it's supposed to be an impromptu filming. And although the image leans towards the dark side, the color level is nicely saturated. Only other complaint, and this is a biggie, is a horrendous pausing glitch in the film when it switches from chapter 6 to chapter 7.
The Dolby 5.1 surround sound is impressive in this film, at least on the music and the overall background sounds. The voice dialogue tends to be front focused and mono—which is realistic if this is being considered a documentary. Hey, in that case, everything should be that way! Well, whatever. It's excellent quality.
THEATRICAL TRAILER—It's letterboxed, and it's carefully edited so it comes across as much more upbeat and campy than the actual film.
MORE FROM WOLFE—trailers for 4 more gay films from the company, including contact info to order them.
DELETED SCENES—15 minutes of substantial stuff here. There's an alternate opening (they went with the better of the two), and an alternate ending (I found this one to be much more uplifting than the real ending. Okay, maybe it has something to do with the absence of "Last Dance"). There's an extended version of the Whoopi scene (the edit was enough), and that infamous deleted dance number with Christian and two other guys that appears on the DVD case. Don't know WHY they cut this. It was pretty hot and cute. The image quality is mostly good here, but it does vary, and isn't so great in some cases. Same goes for the sound quality, which is sometimes fine, other times, muffled.
ENGLISH SUBTITLES—on or off, your choice.
FACT/FICTION GAME—great idea, gave me a headache. Here's how it's supposed to work. When you turn it ON, you watch the movie through, and periodically, a star will flash on the screen. You then click on it, and are taken to a page of a text trivia question about whether this film fact about the movie is true or false. I think you're supposed to be scored at the end for the number of right answers and given the real answer or something, but I never got that far. On one of my DVD players, the DVD player CRASHED every time I went to the first trivia question! On a different DVD player, the stars showed up twice, and then disappeared completely, as if the feature had turned itself off. If anyone does any better with this feature, fill me in, and I'll update this section. One last note, if you watch the film through with this feature on, the audio track becomes 2.0 stereo.
COMMENTARY—Writer Christian Taylor, director Lindy Heymann, and producer Jason Butchel bring us a very worthy commentary that offers technical film-making facts, anecdotal stories about the making of, where they got the inspiration to make the film—and just how true or false the film actually is.
Showboy is a mockumentary about a guy trying to make it as a Vegas dancer. If you're thinking your going to get an even gayer version of , you're going to be disappointed. The press on this one falsely represents it, for, although it has some funny moments, it really borders on being downright depressing (thanks in part to the excellent performance by Christian Taylor). Only certain gay guys are probably going to consider this one a treasure of gay cinema. As for the DVD, it's well-done, with good effort put into delivering excellent image and sound, as well as nice bonus features including worthy deleted scenes and an informative commentary.