Review: ‘Test’ says little about gay life in the 1980s

A scene from ‘Test’
Scott Marlowe in the movie “Test.”
(Variance Films)

Set in 1985 San Francisco as HIV blood tests first become available, “Test” revolves around an understudy at a ballet company. When Frankie (Scott Marlowe of the LEVYdance company in San Francisco, in his acting debut) isn’t rehearsing in the studio, he lays about at home, saunters around wearing a Walkman, socializes, hooks up with strangers, visits clinics and frets over his unknown HIV status.

But the AIDS scare remains as much window dressing as do other period details such as rotary phones and cassette tapes. “Test” seems to be about dance above all, with choreographed montages filling the bulk of its running time.

Writer-director Chris Mason Johnson, who made his filmmaking debut in 2009 with “The New Twenty,” once danced with the Frankfurt Ballet. He has little to say about gay life in the ‘80s and how AIDS affected gay men differently than it does today.

As such, “Test” is woefully inadequate and unnecessary when compared with “Parting Glances” (1986) and “Longtime Companion” (1989). It also offers fewer insights on remnants of the era than do contemporary-set films such as “Before I Forget” (2008) and the forthcoming “Love Is Strange,” which I saw at the Tribeca Film Festival and which was scheduled to screen again at the Los Angeles Film Festival this month. The final prophecy of “Test,” of AIDS-stipulated monogamy among gay men, elicits little more than a shrug.




MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.


Playing: At Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.

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