Bad Boys for Life
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The early scene with the aunt and the buses-- the sound and the swirling camera-- awakened my nervous system and I realized I was in the presence of masterful filmmaking, which wasn't surprising from Donnersmark, who'd made THE LIVES OF OTHERS. When the film ended, more than 3 hours later, I was still in its thrall. The plot isn't the point. Response to the pageant before you-- real or cinematic-- is the point.
Some documentaries are so surprising, and so much fun, that even if you know little or nothing about the subject-- even if you don't care about the subject-- you can't help but be seduced. Such is "Hot to Trot," a documentary about same-sex ballroom dancing that was an official selection at a film festival in San Francisco in June. In the words of a fellow interviewed in the film, it's a world of Freds with Freds and Gingers with Gingers. Who leads? Good question.
Director Gail Freedman focuses on one female pair and one male pair, though it adds up to more than four people because, of course, life intervenes. Now and then, the time comes to change partners. One Fred becomes ill, is replaced by another. A Ginger can't manage both her demanding job and the demanding world of competitive dance, so her partner's girlfriend foxtrots in. We meet dancers' families, from a mother who helps sew her daughter's glittering costumes to a father who struggles to accept a homosexual son who is not just out of the closet but on stage with another Fred. We meet their domestic partners, too, all of them supportive, but not all lifelong. That, too, is life, and this movie embraces all of it.
It would be an unsatisfying film, if it weren't based on a true story. The tragedy is so unbearable, you don't want to accept it as well-structured story. But it is true, and that redeems it. The performances, particularly by Browning and Stevens, are indelible.