It's too bad that in "Poster Boy" clarity is not equal to force, because it has so much going for it. It's topical, impassioned and dynamic, boasting crisp performances and smart dialogue. Its convoluted flashback structure and elliptical style make it at times needlessly confusing to the point of distraction, which likely will limit its appeal to gay audiences in a forgiving mood. This is lamentable because, more so than most gay-themed movies, "Poster Boy" had the potential for crossover appeal.
Fictional right-wing North Carolina Sen. Jack Kray (Michael Lerner, never scarier) is gearing up for his next campaign and insists that his own college student son Henry (Matt Newton) serve as his "poster boy" to attract younger voters. What the senator does not know is that his son is gay, and when Henry resists participating in the campaign, despite his father's bullying, he is threatened with being outed by the senator's smarmy aide (Ian Reed Kesler).
Intelligent and reflective as well as rebellious, Henry observes that his father is as addicted to politics as a junkie is to heroin. Jack Kray is a phony beneath a publicly folksy family values veneer, a ruthless bully who believes in nothing but winning at whatever cost. His attractive wife, Eunice (Karen Allen), cast her lot with her husband long ago, and when she finally does allow herself to express her dismay over his tactics, he airily dismisses her by telling her to take a drink or go shopping.
In the meantime, while miserably bending to his father's will, Henry, at his college in New York, meets the charismatic Anthony (Jack Noseworthy). They commence an affair, with Henry unaware that Anthony is a political activist determined to bring down the senator.
Director Zak Tucker, in his first feature, stirs up his actors without pushing them over the top, but the film's problem is the lack of connective tissue provided by writers Lecia Rosenthal and Ryan Shiraki, who are stronger on characterization than continuity. Valerie Geffner, an actress of commanding presence, is wasted in an ill-defined role as Anthony's best friend. Even with satisfying performances from the principal actors, however, "Poster Boy" is longer on energy than focus.
MPAA rating: R for language, some sexual content/nudity
Distributed by Regent Releasing. Director Zak Tucker. Producers Jeff Campagna, Rebecca Chaiklin, Dolly Hall, Vince P. Maggio, Herbert Ross. Screenplay by Lecia Rosenthal and Ryan Shiraki. CinematograpCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun