“Before You Know It,” P.J. Raval’s fly-on-the-wall look at three very different — yet perhaps by some measures, not different enough — gay senior citizens, is a mixed bag of observations and intentions. While often affecting and absorbing, the film proves intellectually and contextually light. This is especially true given a leisurely running time that could have easily accommodated more dimensional probing.
Raval follows his trio of subjects over the course of several years as they face an array of transformative events.
For Ty Martin, a fit, eloquent, Harlem-based LGBT activist and optimist, it’s about pursuing marriage to his reluctant partner, Stanton, just as gay matrimony is legalized in New York.
Then there’s Dennis Creamer, a lonely widower and discreet cross-dresser in his late 70s. (Details of his 30-year heterosexual marriage are notably lacking.) The film finds Dennis breaking away from his dreary rural Florida home for an embracing gay retirement residence outside Portland, Ore. En route, Dennis will fly solo on a gay cruise and boldly ride on a gay pride parade’s “T-girls” float as his alter ego, “Dee.”
As for Robert Mainor of Galveston, Texas, the flamboyant owner of what’s billed as the state’s oldest gay bar, health issues and a potentially catastrophic lawsuit threaten to derail his self-made world, one filled with lost boys, drag shows and potluck holiday dinners.
It all makes for a sincere, at times depressing, decidedly incomprehensive portrait of gay men of a certain age. In the end, one wonders exactly what Raval wants to say here except that the challenges of growing old in America are not confined to one sexual orientation or another.
“Before You Know It.”
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
At Laemmle’s Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.