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Soulless in Seattle

Derek Magyar (left) plays the high-end, handsome hustler who is the narrator of the romantic comedy "Boy Culture." One of his roommates, played by Darryl Stephens, is attracted to him. (TLA RELEASING)

Five minutes into "Boy Culture," you should already know what its protagonist does for a living. X -- that's what he calls himself (mysterious, right?) -- is your classically handsome male escort, a late-'90s pinup with sparkling blue eyes, rippling abs, and a trim roster of 12 regular gentlemen callers. He's not the kind of prostitute you'll find advertising in the back of the local gay rag. He's high-end.

Why should you know this? "[Because] I'm gay and they've made a movie about me. Try to keep up," he says in a smug voice-over.

It's a perfect example of just how narrowly "Boy Culture" envisions its subject matter, not to mention gay men as a whole. Directed by Q. Allan Brocka and based on Matthew Rettenmund's 1995 novel, it doesn't know if it wants to wallow in its characters' pity or to flesh them out with their own personalities. So it does both, with half-hearted results.

You know something's amiss in a movie when an omniscient narrator blathers the entire way through it. X (Derek Magyar ) sets up every scene, and in case you didn't understand what just happened, he explains it afterward, too.

His first musing is that "Boy Culture," set in Seattle, is all about confession -- of guilt, of lust, of regret, of despair. Throughout the film, as if to advance the plot, he asks for forgiveness from a higher power. "Forgive me, Father. I was wrathful" is a typical plea.

X's greatest dilemma is that he's a "hustler with morals," yet he hasn't had sex outside of his job since he was a teen. He can sleep with his johns and loves the thrill of getting paid for it, but he can't connect on an emotional level.

It's not like he doesn't have plenty of options, though. Both of his roommates, Andrew (Darryl Stephens ) and Joey (Jonathon Trent), are hot for him, even if they claim they don't really know who he is deep down (join the club). Even though X tells us, "I'm not normally into black guys," he's drawn to Andrew, who's newly out of the closet and exploring his sexuality. Meanwhile, Joey, a barely legal vixen with the Valley Girl lexicon and leather pants to prove it, sleeps his way through half of the city's gay men while longing for X.

It gets more complicated. X's latest client is Gregory (Patrick Bauchau ), a wise septuagenarian who has obviously learned to speak from watching Addison DeWitt in "All About Eve." Unlike X's other customers, Gregory is first interested in conversation; the sex will come later, only when X truly desires Gregory. You know from the moment they meet that Gregory will soon be X's platonic mentor, teaching him about matters of the heart while fully clothed. Surprisingly, this is one of the few plot twists that's not spelled out in a voice-over.

In the end, we discover that X's narration has been serving another purpose entirely. It turns out, just like Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City," X has been selling these tales as a successful magazine column.

Forgive us, Father. We're not buying any of it.

James Reed can be reached at


Boy Culture

Directed by: Q. Allan Brocka

Written by: Brocka and Philip Pierce (based on the novel by Matthew Rettenmund)

Starring: Derek Magyar, Darryl Stephens, Jonathon Trent, and Patrick Bauchau

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 88 minutes