In life, it happens gradually. But in the movies, one day a character wakes up and realizes she or he isn’t in sync with or even aware of “what the kids are into these days.”
That’s the subtext of actor turned writer-director Todd Flaherty‘s feature directing debut, “Chrissy Judy.” It’s an old fashioned romance in a queer setting, and is about reaching that moment when cruising, casual sex and narcissism aren’t enough — and are ending, anyway, because at least in terms of your “crowd,” you’re getting “old.”
Flaherty stars as the “Judy” of the title — aka “Judy Blew’em” — half of a drag act with closer-than-close friend Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner), Manhattan besties who join long-coupled friends for a Fire Island weekend in the film’s opening scenes.
They’re well into their 30s, which means “40” is the new “old.” They’re out of step, with their “Golden Girls” references and “Murder She Wrote” mania, their fondest wish to get away to “P-town.“
Their stage act reflects their age. They’re the hangers-on of the last generation to obsess over Judy and Barbra and torch songs and Broadway/American Songbook classics like “Ain’t We Got Fun” and “What’ll I Do?”
We’ve just gotten into the “bitch,” “bitch-please” “Carrie and Big,” “Steve and Miranda” rhythms of their banter and their relationship when Chrissy delivers his news. This new guy he’s been seeing? He’s moving in with him. In Philadelphia.
It’s a take-stock moment for both of them, but especially Judy. The endless waiter gigs, the “I’m going to be FAMOUS” delusions, sharing an apartment which he still can’t afford despite the two women roommates he’s renting from, random bar pick-ups — that’s not very adult.
Adults — not all of them — typically outgrow all that. Not our Judy, who underscores the redundancy in the phrase gay narcissist.
It may be time to knock off the blond dye jobs, the Grindr photos, the live-for-today lack of planning…anything. It’s time to notice how “the act” was going over even before Judy turns solo.
That’s your grandad’s drag, dear.
Flaherty shot “Chrissy Judy” in black and white to underscore how old fashioned all this feels. This is a throwback, a melodramatic rom-com that could be from an earlier era in queer cinema. It’s a little raunchier, but not really any more sexually explicit than the tentative gay romances and melodramas of the early ’90s.
That gives it a predictable air and makes one wish for more bitchy laughs.
But Flaherty writes plenty of crisp, crackling advance-the-plot/character arc scenes. When Judy is invited down to weekend with Chrissy and new-love Shawn (Kiyon Spencer) he finds himself amongst the nesting gays of Philadelphia, the settled and second-house set, “people we used to make fun of.”
When Judy tries to turn a romantic connection (Joey Tarranto) into something more than heated, unsatisfactory sex, he finds himself giving the side-eye to the shallow lifestyle he once embraced, and maybe a little self-acceptance about his lack of common ground with Next Generation vapids who remind him of himself a dozen years before.
“Chrissy Judy,” obviously structured to be a Flaherty star vehicle, is a tad abrupt in “breaking up the act”(that seems to come too early) and loses its momentum as the later acts turn reflective and predictable.
But it won me over with its nostalgia, a pre-“Bros” take on gay life and love and that inarticulate need most everyone feels “to be alone with someone” that Judy, even after giving up that cheeseball drag name, could never describe as “companionship.”
Rating: unrated, sexually explicit, pot use, profanity
Cast: Todd Flaherty, Wyatt Fenner, Joey Taranto and Kiyon Spencer
Credits: Scripted and directed by Todd Flaherty. A Dark Star release.
Running time: 1:34