A potentially precious and maudlin conceit gets an absorbing and intriguing treatment in “Retake,” an impressive road drama about a middle-aged gay man who hires a young hustler to join him on a life-changing ride to the Grand Canyon.
Tuc Watkins (TV’s “One Life to Live,” “Desperate Housewives”) plays Jonathan, a handsome, if sad and deeply haunted guy attempting to replay a decade-old trip he took with an ex-lover named Brandon (Andrew Asper, in flashback) who broke his heart.
To that end, Jonathan picks up Adam (Devon Graye) on the streets of San Francisco, dubs him “Brandon” and makes him reenact and role-play key moments of that pivotal 2005 journey, replete with eerily exact Polaroid picture poses.
But the rules Jonathan imposes on his rent boy — Adam must wear Brandon’s clothes and cologne, ask no probing questions and adhere to a strict travel, dining and lodging itinerary — are eventually upended as Adam unravels Jonathan’s agenda, loosens him up and demands more honesty.
That Adam proves not some shallow opportunist — nor a whore with a heart of gold — but a perceptive and endearing fellow with his own troubled past is just one of many smart, sensitive choices made here by writer-director Nick Corporon.
A fine Watkins brings quiet depth and pathos to the buttoned-up, tightly wound Jonathan, while Graye proves an appealingly game and sexy counterpart.
Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Royal, West Los Angeles