Watercolors, about a high school art student who falls in love with a hunky if troubled member of the swim team, made quite a splash (no pun intended ... OK, maybe a little) at Outfest, Los Angeles's GLBT film festival, way back in the summer of 2008. It is finally being released theatrically this weekend in Los Angeles and New York as part of a gay mini-fest sponsored by Regent Releasing/here! Films and Gay.com.
The plot of Watercolors is reminiscent of the superior, 1999 British film Get Real, in which a self-accepting gay student also has the hots for a closeted athlete. To Watercolors' detriment, Oliveras turns up the angst and minimizes the humor in his tale of conflicted boy-love. He stacks the odds against Danny (played by Tye Olson, who won the 2008 Best Actor award at Outfest for his work here) and the object of his affection, Carter (Kyle Clare, also quite good). Both are the sons of recovering alcoholics. Carter, a promising athlete, suffers as a result of his father's too-high expectations and turns to drugs. Meanwhile, the bullied, effeminate Danny hones his artistic technique under the tutelage of a compassionate teacher played by camp movie queen Karen Black.
One can't blame Danny for falling for the seductive Carter when the latter ends up staying at Danny's home one weekend. Sexy if unsurprising, almost requisite scenes involving skinny dipping, smoking lessons using a shared cigarette, and tentative same-sex kisses result. And also predictably, things between Carter and Danny end tragically.
Oliveras suffuses his film with odd, unnecessary vignettes of the grown-up Danny fighting with his current boyfriend over his continuing obsession with Carter during an exhibition of Danny's art. The tipsy boyfriend comes across as a jerk, and I kept hoping Danny would dump him instead of begging him not to leave. The movie's finale, intended to be romantic, felt hollow to me.
The best feature of Watercolors — apart from its Speedo-clad swimmers — is the lovely, color-saturated cinematography by Melissa Holt. Also of note is the presence of out champion diver Greg Louganis, suddenly middle-aged but still very attractive, as Carter's demanding swim coach.
Watercolors is playing for a limited time as part of a triple feature with Murder in Fashion, about gay party boy Andrew Cunanan and the killing of Gianni Versace, and Misconceptions, a promising-sounding comedy in which a conservative Southern woman decides to act as a surrogate for two gay men after receiving a message from God telling her to do so. For more information about the fest and these films, visit Gay.com.
UPDATE: Watercolors is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.