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Magic Trick

Pure fun

By Fred Choi

Directed by Jim Fall

Written by Jason Schafer

With Christian Campbell, J.P. Pitoc, and Tori Spelling

Trick is a movie that queer audiences have been awaiting for some time. At last, a gay romantic comedy that doesn’t have anything to do with AIDS, homophobia, someone’s struggle for sexual identity, or the classic “Is he or isn’t he?” scenario, which gays get more than enough of in real life. Although these topics are all significant and relevant to homosexuals in the 90’s, it is utterly refreshing to have a movie in which the main characters are just regular, well-adjusted gay people going about their everyday lives.

Although this story may be somewhat idealistic in its lack of complications, such an approach isn’t as farfetched or unusual a notion as other queer movies make it out to be. And even though the movie pointedly shuns all the traditionally serious gay topics, its story, which screenwriter Jason Schafer skillfully makes welcoming and accessible to non-queer audiences, is still compelling and relevant to queer culture. Indeed, the greatest and most important thing about Trick is that it succeeds as a romantic comedy and can hold its own against such classics as When Harry Met Sally and Strictly Ballroom.

Trick takes its title from a part of queer culture that many audience members may not be aware of. This is the one night stand that occurs between two consenting people, in which it is implicitly understood by both parties that the relationship is strictly for the night: after they find a place and both are satisfied, they’ll go their separate ways, end of story. The main conflict of Trick is simple. Where to take your trick for the night when there’s nowhere private to go?

The beginning of the movie follows Gabriel (Christian Campbell), an aspiring musical theater writer, who has made eye contact with Mark (John Paul Pitoc), a go-go boy, on the subway after having noticed him dancing in a flattering red thong at a bar. They agree to go to Gabe’s place, even though Gabe knows his roommate needs the apartment in a few hours because his girlfriend is returning from a trip. However, when they arrive, Gabe’s best friend, aspiring actress Katherine (Tori Spelling), is busy printing out 150 copies of her resume. This is only the first of a night full of hilarious obstacles that take the two all over Manhattan searching for a place to satisfy their delayed gratification. On the way, they interact with a slew of vivid, memorable supporting characters in a variety of riotously funny scenes, including a bitter drag queen in the bathroom of a gay club, Gabriel’s musical theater mentor singing lewd songs in a piano bar, and a topless aspiring sex therapist.

Although the simple conflict of Trick could have been difficult to sustain for the length of a movie, and its gay male fantasy story could have been as trite as a trashy express lane paperback romance novel, it is thanks to Schafer’s sometimes quirky script that the movie is witty and wonderful. The script is tight, the action never falters, and the laughs never stop coming as each of the two protagonists, at first unwillingly, learn more about each other.

Director Jim Fall does a wonderful job with pacing, and the actors are simply perfect in their roles. Tori Spelling (“Beverly Hills 90210”), the most famous of the cast, proves that she can act and fills her role with confidence. Her character is just as important as the two male leads, and her ability to sensitively express Katherine’s complex feelings for Gabe is admirable. Christian Campbell, with his apple-pie-sweet looks, and J.P. Pitoc, with his wide smile, prove to be a perfect match, and generate sparks and grins.

There are only a paltry few ways in which Trick is weak, and most are minor complaints. The conflict near the end of the film feels a little hackneyed upon close inspection. Also, because the movie is built around the concept of a trick, the omission of AIDS issues is perhaps noteworthy in its absence. However, Schafer and Fall’s decision is not ludicrous, and the two are to be commended for their decision to avoid such topics completely.

Trick is, in a word, terrific. It is unique, warm, intelligent, and, exceptionally, refrains from ever resorting to crass humor or caricatures. It is a romantic comedy that makes recent, more famous movies such as Notting Hill seem painfully mediocre in comparison. Trick is a unique and memorable movie that is a sure crowd-pleaser for straight and gay audiences alike.