Rep Pick: Four

07/25/2012 4:00 AM |

Four (2012)
Directed by Joshua Sanchez
Friday, July 27 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, on the opening night of NewFest 2012

Joshua Sanchez’s directorial debut, which kicks off this year’s edition of New York’s LGBTQ film series, is accomplished in many ways, but not entirely satisfying. Based on Christopher Shinn’s play, it relates the stories of two couples. Joe (Wendell Pierce), a middle-aged, married African-American man,  meets June (Emory Cohen), a white teenage boy, for an internet hook-up. While he’s out, Joe’s daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) goes out with Dexter (E. J. Bonilla), a streetwise Latino teen. The entire film takes place on the July 4th in a nameless suburb with few features; Sanchez gets good use out of the lens flares created by reflections on cars windows. However, all too often, his images seem to serve as a delivery system for Shinn’s words. His characters are largely articulate, but their speech feels contrived. How did Joe, who urges June to step outside his comfort zone and test his closet’s boundaries, wind up married to a woman? Why does he offer such sage advice while remaining closeted himself? He seems to see in June opportunities he’s passed up in his own life. The film skirts the issue of the legality of Joe and June’s sex, never mentioning the latter’s age. In any case, this queasy frisson gives their encounter a sharpness that Abigayle and Dexter’s  can’t match.

Cinematographer Gregg Conde shoots these characters’ struggles with an unsteady handheld camera, and Sanchez usually frames them in close-ups or medium shots. These visual choices wind up emphasizing the dialogue and performances once again, although the final few minutes make lovely deployment of the images and sounds of fireworks.