Friday May 22, 1998
David DeCoteau's "Leather Jacket Love Story" could well be the sunniest gay movie ever made, yet it is also genuinely poignant. It's campy, raunchy and funny as well, glowing with an unabashed gay sensibility. It's no less perceptive for having been made with a light touch and an ear for broad humor and has an easy, graceful style heightened by Howard Wexler's beautifully modulated black-and-white cinematography.
An aspiring 18-year-old poet, a towheaded Valley boy named Kyle (Sean Tataryn), decides to take an apartment in Silver Lake for the summer before enrolling in UCLA in the fall. He's gotten tired of hanging out with his best friend Ian (Geoffrey Moody), a determined hedonist with a house in the hills with a pool populated by a revolving door of "Chads and Brads," well-built guys who swim in the nude. Ian thinks Kyle is crazy to forsake West Hollywood sex and glitz for Silver Lake bohemia, but Kyle is serious about his poetry.
Kyle is drawn to a local coffee shop, a magnet for drag divas and a site for poetry readings hosted by none other than "Pink Flamingos' " Mink Stole. One day Kyle is transfixed when in walks a good-looking man in a leather jacket, having arrived on a motorcycle, natch. The newcomer spots Kyle staring at him, and in turn likes what he sees.
He's Mike (Christopher Bradley), a 29-year-old carpenter and roofer in a seven-year partnership, now more professional than romantic, with Sam (Hector Mercado). Mike is a hunky, easygoing guy who effortlessly sweeps Kyle off his feet.
Writer Rondo Mieczkowski and DeCoteau know exactly what they're doing and where they're going with their blithe romantic fantasy. Their romance is as tender as it is hot, and the filmmakers could not be more deft in steering it in a credible direction. They know how to camp it up and take sex right to the edge of hard core, but they also know how to be subtle and sensitive in depicting Kyle and Mike's relationship.
Most important, perhaps, is that the filmmakers are inclusive. In their gay world there's room for young guys like Kyle, older guys like Sam (about to celebrate his 40th birthday) and leather types like Mike. At a poetry reading there's pioneer gay rights activist Morris Kight, amusing as a grumpy poet. And then there are the local divas--Madame Dish (Stephen J. McCarthy), Erin Krystle, Craig Olsen, Momma (Worthie Meacham), Daniel Escobar, Ruby Tuesday and Moist Towelette--on hand to dispatch gay bashers, dispense bitchy humor and not a little wisdom besides.
The best advice to Kyle comes from a middle-aged poet (Nicholas Worth, in a stylishly theatrical turn) who reminds the youth that he needs to write about what he knows--and what he needs to know most is love.
Amid much that's deliberately and delightfully outrageous, DeCoteau directs Tataryn and Bradley toward giving legitimate, winning portrayals. "Leather Jacket Love Story" may be a fantasy, a crowd-pleaser with lots of laughs, but Kyle and Mike are for real.
Leather Jacket Love Story, 1998. Unrated. A Goldeco Pictures presentation. Director David DeCoteau. Producer Jerry Goldberg. Executive producer Bruce Baker. Screenplay by Rondo Mieczkowski. Cinematographer Howard Wexler. Editor Jeffrey Schwarz. Music Jeremy Jordan. Costumes Edward Hibbs. Production designer Jeannie Lomma. Art director Brian Virwani. Set decorator Jeffrey Morris. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. Sean Tataryn as Kyle. Christopher Bradley as Mike. Geoffrey Moody as Ian. Hector Mercado as Sam.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times