"Be honest, even if it hurts."
If The Big Chill ditched the dead body and made all its characters queer, it would look something like 3-Day Weekend--a film where four gay friends take a weekend trip to a cabin nestled in the beautiful outdoors. Hoping to shake up their routine, the gang decides that each of them must invite a single guest to "spice" things up. And by "spice", I mean "sex".
Middle-aged couple Jason (Douglas Myers) and Simon (Derek Meeker) are the hosts, joined by generation-gap couple Cooper, 48 (Derek Long) and Ace, 25 (Stephen Twardokus). The party crashers are Mac (Chris Carlisle), Jason's young, shy co-worker; Andre (Daniel Rhyder), an escort that Simon frequently hires yet still keeps secret from open-relationship partner Jason ("Don't tell him how much I see you..."); Kevin (Gaetano Jones), Cooper's spacey nude yoga instructor; and Cameron (Joel Harrison), Ace's carefree, hunky friend from college.
Just 10 minutes into the film, writer/director Rob Williams (Long-Term Relationship and Back Soon, whose star Matthew Montgomery produced this film) sets up a group discussion about the portrayal of gay men in film (ala Scream's self-aware slasher script) that I feel compelled to share:
Ace: "This place reminds me of that movie..."
Cam: "Friday the 13th?"
Cooper: "Ten Little Indians?"
Simon: "The Boys in the Band?"
Ace: "No, it wasn't a musical..."
Mac: "Love! Valour! Compassion!?"
Ace: "That's it!"
Jason, disgruntled: "Anything but that!"
Simon: "I am not wearing a tutu!"
Ace: "You know, a small group of guys, cabin in the woods, for the weekend..."
Jason: "Yeah, a bunch of guys who don't even like each other, filled with self-loathing, sleeping around and dying of AIDS...can we not do that this weekend?"
Apparently not, because 3-Day Weekend--which feels the need to wear its "influences" on its script and point them out on its DVD box (just in case you were really slow)--becomes a story hijacked by some self-loathing men who sleep around with each other. But before I delve further into that irony, let's return to the conversation:
Mac: "I saw that movie in my film studies class. It was a perfect product of its time."
Jason: "Thank God that time is over."
Cooper: "I can't believe you just said that."
Jason: "We saw the same thing in every movie--we were either noble AIDS victims, angry AIDS victims or friends of AIDS victims."
Cooper: "Yeah, because it was the single biggest issue facing our community at the time. It still is."
Jason: "Do we really want our cinematic legacy to be stories about death?"
Cooper: "At least there is a legacy...isn't it better to have a portrayal of gays suffering than to have no presence of gays in films at all?"
Jason: "At least today's gay movies..."
Cooper: "...which suck..."
Jason: "...at least they cover a wide range of topics and genres."
Mac: "No, he's right...AIDS was the prevailing theme in gay cinema for a long time. But now we have gay romantic comedies and documentaries about our fight for equality and horror films and anything else you could want. I think that's a good thing! But it doesn't diminish what we can learn from our history, and that includes movies from the past, movies about death and our community's struggle."
Cooper: "All I'm saying is, I'll take Longtime Companion over that Ethan Greene twink any day..."
Okay, 3-Day Weekend. Well said. You now have my attention. The ball's in your court--what are you going to do with it? Oh...have sex with it? Then someone else? So instead of a cinematic legacy of dying AIDS victims, we get one filled with carb-conscious, gym-obsessed, underachieving, open-relationship horndogs who think with their dicks? And the ultimate moral of the story is that hookers are people, too? As Cam notes in a rare display of keen observation: "Man, you're all so fuckin' jaded!", to which Jason replies: "Just realistic." (Isn't there a healthier middle ground?!) Viewers will have a hard time caring about most of these people--you'll relate to some of their plights, but not sympathize with most of them.
Not that raunchy characters and dirty deeds alone hurt a film; I'm happy to feast on some old-fashioned fun if the screenplay and performers know how to do it well. But the acting and script don't help--Rhyder is miscast, and you won't believe that any of these good-looking characters (three of whom know the callboy) would ever pay for sex. Myers is also a little too aggressive with his delivery, his angry lines more humorous than heartfelt. His idea of emoting anger seems to be emphatically shouting certain words, as if he's speaking in ALL CAPS: "Funny, he NEVER mentions you!", "Why the FUCK are you such a DICK this weekend?" and "Me joining you and your hustler for an afternoon of consensual SUCKING and FUCKING?" are just a few of the gems. It's too hammy to be taken seriously.
There's also awkward line delivery from much of the cast, who frequently pause before speaking dialogue that should come much quicker. The noticeable silences produce a strange rhythm of exchanges--the conversations feel careful and rehearsed, not natural and fluid. It's like you're watching actors, not friends. The film also suffers from too much noticeable music, which frequently fills the background. They become distracting, and the use of a brief overdramatic score piece provides another jarring experience. Williams doesn't know how to seamlessly meld music into the film so that it all flows together.
The hardest characters to care about are Jason and Simon, an unhappy couple that likes to fight--and eventually flaunt some pretty cruel behavior in each other's faces (they just need to get over themselves, already!). A development near the 50-minute mark had me rolling my eyes in disappointment--maybe I'm the na´ve one, but I still hold hope that not all gay relationships end up like this (have some respect for yourself and others, people!). The arcs involving Mac/Kevin and Cooper/Ace provide the film's brighter spots, and I wish there was more of a focus on them. Mac is probably the most relatable of all the characters, and not used nearly enough--the film would have been much stronger told through his eyes.
While 3-Day Weekend falls far short, it isn't without merit: It has some meaningful musings on finding love, relationships, monogamy, gay rights, growing old, body image and the importance of friends--just not nearly enough to save the film from its own skin. Those moments of promise are few and far between, lost amid a sea of bitter characters (guess what...gay couples are just as unhappy as straight ones!) and sex-partner swapping. Not all of the characters are that way, but they bark the loudest to make the film's lasting impression. Given the soapbox the film stepped on, I was hoping for something more. Instead, we get exchanges like this:
Cam: "Do you get paid more for barebacking?"
Andre: "Don't fool yourself...it's work! You should see some of my clients..."
Cam: "What do they look like?"
Andre: "Two words: back hair."
I'm shuddering, too, dear readers...for more than one reason.
For a low-budget effort, the anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer is pretty solid. Many of the colors are bright and bold, although the film is frequently a little too orange for my taste. Outside of some mild noise and some shimmer, it's about as strong as you could hope for considering the budget.
The 2.0 stereo track is modest but it gets the job done. The dialogue is mostly clear, although not always as loud and crisp as it could be.
While the box makes it look like you get a lot of bonus features, it isn't as exciting as it seems. Leading the way is the audio commentary with writer/director Rob Williams and everyone from the cast except Daniel Rhyder (Andre). With eight gay men chiming in, you'd expect this to be a lot more entertaining and funny than it is. But like most of the extras here, it's pretty boring. They all seem to be nice guys with a good working relationship, but not much personality shines through. We get requisite jokes about shampoo bottles looking like dildos or bottles of lube (the appearance of an econo-size lube pump is pointed out later), harness shopping, condoms and nude scenes, with various other tidbits about the production also being shared. It's all very "nice", but not very interesting, like everyone is being too careful and not letting loose.
With eight people chiming in, it all sounds like small talk, and the gang laughs a lot more than you will at some of the dialogue. I was disappointed that the long scene with the conversation about gay cinema is mostly talked over, without any real insights (all we get from Williams: "This does not at all represent my views on current gay cinema"). The director also reads from his "viewer mailbag", a schtick that wears thin by the time we arrive to a question for actor Derek Long from an apparent Croatian fan: "Me very much like watching you have sex in Socket. Can you get me Matthew Montgomery's phone number, because I like young men?"
Up next is a collection of cast interviews (29:27), shot on much lower-quality video. There's minimal excitement here as well, with the first third (and a lot of the total running time) devoted to character and plot discussion, which all proves to be redundant for those who have watched the feature. Other sections cover the nudity/love scenes; working with the cast and director; and what it was like filming a few specific scenes.
The alternate ending proves to be a 20-second gag, while the deleted scene (:48) and extended scene (4:20) are both forgettable (the back of the box indicates there are multiple deleted and extended scenes, but you just get one of each; there's also no photo gallery). Not even the outtakes and bloopers (4:20) elicit many laughs. You also get other trailers for TLA releases.
The most exciting moment for me was the "Rise" music video (available in "original" and "film" versions). As a D.C. metro area 'mo who has seen singer/songwriter Tom Goss perform at Nellie's, the videos got me all giddy with their D.C. scenery and Metro system footage.
If it weren't for a conversation early on in the film addressing the cinematic history of gay characters, maybe my expectations wouldn't have been so high. Why point out the failings and stereotypes if you're going to do nothing to improve them? But even without that soapbox scene, 3-Day Weekend is ultimately too dull and boring. The story of eight gay men on a cabin retreat is full of predictable situations and behavior. Not nearly funny or moving enough to be memorable, it suffers from too many dislikeable characters (you can relate to them, but not sympathize) and some mediocre acting. The film touches upon some themes close to the hearts of many gay men--finding love, developing self-worth, the struggle with body image and growing old--but most of the important stuff gets lost amid the bed sheets and butts. Still, if you're in the mood for a Big (gay) Chill, you might find some moderate amusement. Rent It.