I remember first seeing the movie Trick (1999) when it was fresh off of the independent film circuit and thinking it was a breath of fresh air. With its familiar character dynamics and story structure it is, in many ways, the first gay romantic comedy. It has all the trappings of your standard chick flick where two disparate people meet and fall for each other, but it manages to apply it to modern gay culture in a very authentic way.
The movie was the directorial debut Jim Fall (The Lizzie McGuire Movie), and it features Gabriel & Mark. Gabriel (Christian Campbell) is a nascent musical composer and Mark (J.P. Pitoc), a mysterious go-go boy. Over the course of one evening they meet and decide to hook up, but one lives far out in Brooklyn and the other has lost access to the studio apartment he shares with his straight roommate. These sort of geographic roadblocks to entertaining at home are very real problems when you are young and struggling in a city like New York.
It is a movie about casual sex between two strangers done in a very non-judgmental way. The modern version would be called Grindr and would begin with a miscommunication over which person was supposed to "host". In its 90-minute running time, it manages to squeeze in a broad, and only mildly dated, swath of relatable moments for a gay audience: leaving your straight friends to leer at go-go dancers in a seedy bar, tolerating a boundaryless fag hag friend (painfully portrayed by Tori Spelling), self-consciously dancing shirtless in a club and, the ultimate fantasy in the New York City hookup scene, a chance encounter on the subway.
Upon my first viewings, I truly considered it a movie for "us", it was a DVD that was on the shelf in every one of my gay friends apartments but seemingly unknown in the heterosexual world. I remember trying to show it off to my crew of close straight friends one evening... they were unimpressed. "Why are all the straight people in this movie so kooky?" My roommate asked playfully. "You mean, like the way gay people are usually portrayed in mainstream films?" I retorted.
Its overall sincerity and charm trumps all of the performances - no one is going to blow you away with their acting. Campbell is unsure and innocent, Pitoc, sexy and quiet, Spelling; shrill. But it does capture a lovely moment of being gay in 90's NYC, when you and your off-off Broadway performer friends ACTUALLY went to Cozy Soup & Burger. It also features a brilliantly uncomfortable scene where drag queen Miss Coco Peru corners one of the protagonists in a men's room and poignantly spins a web of doubt and deception.
Of course, the real star of this movie is Pitoc's body. After spending many a night in the big city carefully analyzing the torsos of go-go dancers, I can say authoritatively that he really was the perfect specimen to play this role. The character of Mark is the textbook fantasy hookup of any unsure average gay Joe; a physically desirable, sexually experienced man of few words who actually has a lot of heart. In the future, there will be a special line of boytoy robots sculpted in Pitoc's image from this movie. It was really disappointing to see that he was not this fit in any of the things he's been in since - even when he played a Chippendales dancer.
In the alternate reality where this movie takes place IRL, I do not believe for one moment that Mark and Gabriel went the distance. In the fictional sequel, they are not married and living in Connecticut with 2.5 springer spaniels and interviewing surrogates. However, by the end of the movie you believe, as much as you would with any mainstream rom-com at least, in the power of their happy ending, even if it was just for that one evening.