This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
In the spring and summer of their senior year in high school, three best friends in Charleston, S.C. deal with their religious beliefs and sexuality. What kind of a film does that make you imagine? Possibly some kind of a melodrama, with big scenes of confrontation and truth-telling. Nothing could be more different than Stephen Cone's "The Wise Kids," which is honest, observant, and subtle.
The film will be the opening night presentation of the 30th annual Reeling Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and will play Nov. 3 at the Music Box. The festival will also play at five other venues.
I've only seen this single festival film, but I can predict that in many of the entries, homosexuality will be treated in a matter-of-fact way, as the norm in the lives on its characters. Last Friday, for example, a sweet musical comedy named "Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together" opened at the Siskel Center, in which every woman in Chicago was apparently gay. Movies often create fantasy worlds. In the real world, everyone is not gay, and coming out can be difficult and painful.
"The Wise Kids" takes a refreshing approach to that reality. All of its characters are members of a Baptist church, but none of them is a religious zealot, and the most devout character is probably Tim (Tyler Ross), who during this summer will deal with the fact that he is gay. This will happen not with dramatic, pumped-up dialogue, but with understated, tentative conversations among friends, often on porch steps, walking down a street in the moonlight, or at back yard parties. Cone is adept at body language, eye contact, nuance, and suggesting people's instinctive sympathy.