Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

It's a PFLAG world, after all!


'Tru Loved' is like an LGBT 'Dawson's Creek'

Tru (Najarra Townsend), Lodell (Matthew Thompson), and Walter (Tye Olson) in Tru Loved.
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In Tru Loved (opening Friday), a charming African American teen, Lodell (Matthew Thompson), the quarterback who yearns to star in his high school's production of West Side Story, brings his white girlfriend, Tru (Najarra Townsend), to his secret hideaway, a backyard treehouse where he sings to the squirrels and keeps his male porn.

"Lo, I said I wouldn't tell anyone, I didn't say I'd be your Katie Holmes," says Tru.

"Look, everyone thinks we're a couple. If we don't act like a couple, they'll think we broke up."

"It feels wrong, lying."

"Tru, you are my girl, just not in the way people think. It's not my fault if people make wrong assumptions."

"Does it really make your life easier if people think we're a couple?" 

"You have no idea! It's like I don't have to waste time and energy proving how normal I am."

Writer/director Stewart Wade gives us a PFLAG Dawson's Creek in a low-key satire on the pressures faced by popular kids to satisfy their fan clubs, while staying faithful to their inner selves. Tru is recovering from the disorientation of being exiled from San Francisco to a Southland burb to satisfy the career needs of one of her gay moms (Alexandra Paul and Cyndra Williams). Shunned by the popular clique at her new school (the ironically named Walt Whitman High), Tru is at first surprised and then a tad suspicious when she's asked out by Lodell, the school's sexy and hyper-popular black jock. Lodell, himself raised by two women, an irreverent grandma (Nichelle Nichols) and an emotionally wounded single mom (Jasmine Guy), is so much the perfect gentlemen that Tru starts to question his intentions and her own freaky school image.

One day, Tru averts a bashing when one of Lo's teammates takes offense at a not-so-subtle cruise from an obviously gay kid, Walter (Tye Olson). Tru and Walter bond and decide to found a club for campus misfits: a Gay-Straight Alliance chapter, chaperoned by the school's drama teacher (Marcia Wallace from the original Bob Newhart Show). As fate would have it, Tru finds an actual boyfriend at the meetings, Trevor (Jake Abel), who is drawn to this queer planet by the influence of his gay uncle/dad (Bruce Vilanch).

Borrowing liberally from West Side Story 's attraction of opposites (Lo and Walter wind up naked together in Lo's "down-low" treehouse), Tru Loved delivers an entertaining if not especially suspenseful sermon on the new tolerance. Sadly, the filmmakers never give us a scene as incendiary and moving as Pacey's spitting in the intolerant teacher's face to protect a queer boy, Jack, in the scene that bonded so many of us to Dawson's Creek. Vernon Wells' Neanderthal football coach is virtually the only dissenting voice once Lo wins over his teammate Manuel (Joseph Julian Soria), who's uptight, but open to persuasion.

The talented core cast, Townsend, Thompson, Olson and Abel, convince us they could actually deliver a queer, star-crossed-lovers WSS or Romeo and Juliet. Supported by Hollywood and movement veterans including openly gay professional football player David Kopay, writer/director Wade allows us to understand just how complicated the new freedoms of association can prove to be on the eve of Obama-nation.

Curiously enough, the film's production faced a rude reception at its original campus location, and was forced to move to a politically more friendly school.

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