H.P. Mendoza establishes himself as a promising filmmaker with Fruit Fly, out on DVD October 19. It serves as Mendoza's directorial debut following the well-received 2006 movie Colma: The Musical, for which he wrote the script and songs.
Like Colma, Fruit Fly is also a San Francisco-based musical that pokes gentle if occasionally raunchy fun at GLBT life. Talented actress L.A. Renigen plays Bethesda, a Filipina performance artist recently arrived in the US against the advice of her over-protective aunt, who tells Bethesda bluntly "I had a dream Osama Bin-Laden bombed San Francisco." She moves into an apartment with various former and hopeful theatre types that include the jaded building owner (the dry but very funny Don Wood), a contentious lesbian couple, and a gay lighting designer, Windham (the charming Mike Curtis).
Bethesda is hoping to secure a space at a local black box theater but finds herself in competition with the self-absorbed Gaz (Christian Cagigal), to whom she naturally becomes attracted. As she simultaneously grows close to Windham and his circle of gay friends, Bethesda must confront the distinct possibility that she is a "Fruit Fly" or, worse, a "Fag Hag". Viewers get to know her and the film's other, colorful yet believable characters through such clever Mendoza-penned songs as "Public Transit," the bus-set opening number; "Enough About Me," Gaz's narcissistic anthem; the fun and well-staged production number "Fag Hag"; and "We Have So Much in Common," in which Windham and Mark, a fellow "versatile bottom" (played by Mendoza), sing of their questionable sexual compatibility.
Unlike many a low-budget independent film, the acting in Fruit Fly is consistently good. Since Mendoza goes the extra mile making it a musical, I wish the cast members' singing was as up-to-snuff. Also, the generally very funny movie gets serious and borderline morose at the mid-point, but it recovers well by the finale. Fruit Fly and Mendoza are definitely worth watching.
Reverend's Rating: B
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.