Regular folk resorting to sex work to make ends meet seems to be a recurring theme in entertainment these days, whether it's on the big screen (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) or television (Hung). The randy gay sex comedy Buffering, a British import, delves into the same territory with similar fair-to-middling results.
Buffering follows the tale of Aaron (Conner McKenzy) and Seb (Alex Anthony), an upwardly mobile, comfortably domestic pair of middle class men in their young 30s. The men are still in love despite hitting financial difficulties with Seb's massage business not attracting any new clients. Aaron has problems of his own, being recently laid-off from his white-collar job. He's hiding that fact, and the couple's overdue household bills, from Seb. In desperation, he decides to secretly videotape their lovemaking sessions and upload them to a pay-per-view sex website. The videos are a huge hit, which prompts the guilt-ridden Aaron to confess what he's been doing to Seb. Seb is understandably upset at this bombshell, but he agrees to go ahead with Aaron's plan until the couple sheds all their debts.
Things start escalating as Aaron and Seb's online exploits gain popularity. Aaron starts buying kinky props and costumes from the local sex shoppe to satisfy their fans' weird requests, while the shop's warped proprietor (Bernie Hodges) promotes the couple's webcasts to his customers. The money continues to pour in, much to Aaron and Seb's surprise.
An unexpected visit from the guys' ex-roomie, Jem (Jessica Matthews), seems to throw a wrench into their enterprise until Jem wholeheartedly offers up herself as a videographer/director. She also suggests taking things to the next level by introducing a third guy to the act. The casting call for this proposed ménage à trois yields video-recorded auditions from several weird would-be sex partners of all types, but none of them are particularly appealing to the trio. The ideal candidate, it turns out, is Mitch (Oliver Park) - the hunky boy who lives next door. Jem, Aaron and Seb interview the says-he's-straight Mitch, who is game to take on the part as an learning exercise for his drama school studies. Jem, who is just as hot 'n heavy for Mitch as the two men, organizes a date for the trio's webcast and is set to film the hyped-up event. As filming day approaches, however, Seb becomes anxious and begins to question the stability of his relationship with Aaron.
Buffering's directing and screenwriting team of Darren Flaxstone and Christian Martin completed this film on a modest scale, filming over a period of twelve days with what appeared to be consumer-grade video equipment. Considering the time and budget restraints, the final product is ... about what you'd expect. The youthful cast members are cute and appealing all around - Anthony and McKenzy make for a believably real couple, Matthews is a winsome beauty (picture Kate Beckinsale on a 99¢ store budget), and Park is appropriately stupid and hot. The film is a letdown due to its predictable script, however. There's a good idea in the basic premise, but the situations as they play out are so lightweight that the film seems overly padded out at 80 minutes. How many kinky sex montages do we really need? There's also a weird disconnect between the low-key domestic scenes with Anthony and McKenzy and the broad, unfunny scenes involving the sex shoppe.
For a silly, horny diversion I suppose one could do worse than this - the guys all show off their buns, and Ms. Matthews even briefly goes topless. Sex Scenes 1, Cohesive Filmmaking 0.
TLA Releasing's DVD of Buffering has the usual two English language soundtracks in 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound in a clear mix that becomes somewhat harsh during music passages (by UK band Nancy). Optional English subtitles are included.
The 1.78 anamorphic widescreen image is serviceable enough for a project shot with handheld video cameras. Even though the film's cinematography is nothing special, the DVD image is decently done with little to no compression artifacts.
The main bonus is an overlong Making of 'Buffering' featurette (16:45), candid footage of a jolly cast and crew relaxing on the set. Bloopers (3:26) and Kung-Fu Pansy (5:33) are more outtake footage. Rounding out the extras are trailers for this and two other low-budget Brit gay flicks, Shank and Release. The packaging also trumpets "award-winning short film F*cked" as an extra, but it is not present on the disc's bonus content menu.
Buffering has an engaging basic concept and cast going for it, not to mention the promise of (at the very least) sexy fun. The disappointingly threadbare results make it more of a soft and limp trifle, however. Skip It.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and jack-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2000, he has been blogging at Scrubbles.net. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's experienced are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.