A Four Letter Word

TLA Releasing
& Embrem Entertainment

Casper Andreas

Casper Andreas,
Jesse Archer

Jesse Archer, Charlie David, Cory Grant, Steven M. Goldsmith, Peter J.R. Rolley, Virginia Bryan, Jeremy Gender, Allison Lane

Unrated, 87 minutes

Maybe Monogamy
by Michael D. Klemm
A shorter version first appeared in abOUT, September, 2008

The setting is a gay bar. A flamboyant party boy named Luke has just thrown himself at a hunk named Stephen and is insulted when his potential trick calls him "a gay cliche." If you've just watched the film's first ten minutes, you would probably say the same thing.

A Four Letter Word is a charming confection by director Casper Andreas that is also a sequel (of sorts) to his previous film, Slutty Summer. Jesse Archer reprises his role as Luke, an amorous barfly. He works in a Chelsea sex shop with Zeke, an activist who wants to save the world and agrees that Luke is a gay cliche. Luke begins to think so too when an elderly Quentin Crisp-type tells him that he's just like him when he was young. Then the requisite romantic comedy "meet-cute" scene gets an extreme makeover when Luke meets up again with Stephen (Dante's Cove's Charlie David) in a back room and this time they click.
The supporting cast includes Luke's friend, Peter. He has invited Derek, his boyfriend of 10 months, to move in with him and they are having serious compatibility issues. Peter likes to have things his way and Luke pulls Derek on the side and said "Don't let him pussy whip you, I know him." Peter's restaurant boss, Marilyn, is struggling with alcoholism while planning her wedding to Mr. Right. Her sobriety is imperiled when her AA sponsor, Trisha, comes on to her and she winds up questioning her sexuality. Meanwhile, Luke and Stephen seem smitten with each other, causing Luke to actually contemplate monogamy. But life is never easy; Zeke reveals that Luke's beloved earns a living as a highly paid hustler. Can a whore and a slut find love?
What I initially thought was just going to be an R rated Will & Grace episode turned into a nicely acted film of unexpected depth. The witty screenplay was co-written by the director and by Jesse Archer and includes such gems as Luke's assertion that "date is a four letter word for interview." There is a beautiful moment when Stephen tells Luke that he doesn't need "glitter to sparkle" and Luke replies, "And you don't need to be straight acting to be a man." The tension between polar opposites Luke and Zeke, as they get on each other's nerves working in the sex shop, provide first-rate comedy. Despite being deliberately led to think otherwise, Luke turns out to be wiser and more serious than you first thought when he says the right thing to stop Marilyn from falling off the wagon. Sparks fly between the two leads, and it goes without saying that all the actors are very easy on the eyes.
Director Andreas has a nice visual sense. His first film, Slutty Summer, transcended its low budget with a strong script and lots of nicely framed images. He's working with a bigger budget this time and the movie looks great. A good example of the film's frequent visual wit is a tense argument between Luke and Zeke that becomes funny when the camera frames them behind a shelf of dildos. His transitional interludes (unlike those in most films that just serve to pad out the length) establish character and propel the narrative while, at the same time, not forcing a bunch of bad songs down our throats.

He gets a gold star too for the steamy sex scene between Luke and Stephen wherein a condom is featured prominently as a hand frantically grabs for it on the nightstand. Any film that promotes safe sex deserve a nod. Kudos too for making Peter and Derek a racially mixed couple. Marilyn's AA meetings are presented with humor but without mockery and they set the mood for the hilarious scene where Luke arouses all the members of a Sexual Compulsives meeting when he describes his participation in an orgy at Fire Island.

I have no idea who wrote what in the script, but someone has a great sense of humor. My biggest belly laugh was when everyone at that Sexual Compulsives meeting began to chant "A disease is a cunning and baffling beast always seeking out new ways to trick us into submission." Luke repeats this ludicrous mantra to Zeke and then, flippantly, adds "And then they started hitting themselves with ropes." Zeke's activism, by the way, presents a nice foil to Luke being fabulous. Yet each has an effect on the other and it's fascinating to watch a friendship, that actually rings true, emerge.

The ensemble cast is terrific. Virginia Bryan and J.R. Rolley played Marilyn and Derek in Slutty Summer and, along with Archer, they reprise their roles here. It isn't necessary to have seen the first film in order to enjoy this one but a few scenes will gain in resonance if you have. A Four Letter Word is funny, touching and sexy. Under its comedic veneer are many profound thoughts on love, sex and relationships. It's a great date movie.


More on Casper Andreas and Jesse Archer:
Slutty Summer

More on Casper Andreas:
Slutty Summer

Between Love & Goodbye
Big Gay Musical, The

Jesse Archer also appears briefly in:
Boy Culture

More on Charlie David:

Judas Kiss