July 23, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Film Review: Down Low

FILM REVIEW
DOWN LOW
Rated R
90 Minutes
Released March 11, 2023

By Dolores Quintana

“Down Low” is funny. It’s a lean 90 minutes that still manages to tell a full story. It’s about a recently divorced man, Gary, played by Zachary Quinto, who finally came out after spending his life married and unhappy. Lukas Gage plays Cameron, a masseuse Gary hired in hopes of having his first gay experience. 

The film was directed by Rightor Doyle and co-written by Phoebe Fisher and Lukas Gage. Even though so pretty weighty topics come up during the film’s running time, the writing and Doyle’s direction keep things lighthearted and fresh. 

Watching Gary finally start to realize what his life could have been is both sad and empowering. The narrative takes a few dark turns, but the tone is kept bright, and even though there is violence and what could be disturbing subject matter, it never tips over into overly weighty docu-drama. It’s sweet, and its chaos is the kind that you might want to experience on a weekend night because it is that chaos that is so exhilarating that you wish you could capture it again. It’s a high that some chase their entire lives, and some still have gifted on them regularly. It’s a gift and a curse. 

But still, the story retains a seriousness that never really drags Gary down in a cruel way. It’s not embarrassment comedy. It is a throwback to wacky films like “Clue” that still retained their sharp edges while never quite going into exploitation or horror film territory. This kind of balancing act is hard to do. 

Quinto does a really good job of portraying Gary. Finding an innocence within the character that is much more charming than many of his recent roles makes Gary relatable without sacrificing the dramatic parts of the character’s arc. Lukas Gage is his match as the free-spirit Cameron. Cameron seems hardened, but there’s also a bushel of light within his character. He is practical and happy to help Gary try to hook up on Grindr. 

All of the supporting characters are just as much fun. I never really expected to see Simon Rex in this role as Buck/Fleshpuppet, but it works, Sebastian Arroyo as Sammy /Looking2Succ, Christopher Reed Brown as Raymond, and Audra McDonald as Patty. They are all good. But I have to point out that Judith Light is a scream as the wine-drinking, Ambien-popping, Sex In The City-watching, nosy neighbor from Hell, Sandy and was the cherry on top of this amusing yet still poignant film. 

“Down Low” is sweet with a tart edge and truthful about what it can be like to come out into a new world that you can’t yet understand. But it does temper the realities with some really boisterous situations and dilemmas. It’s not catering to a straight audience and is its own thing. A successful comedy with a heart that still has some spines along its edges.

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