Beautiful Something feels a lot like a play…Of course, the sex scenes might not be acceptable in your local community theatre, but that’s an issue for another day.
Philadelphia is often called the City of Brotherly Love, but the central characters in Joseph Graham’s Beautiful Something might beg to differ. Gay men of varying age, race, and socioeconomic status, they have no trouble finding guys to hook up with, but true love proves more elusive. This is a time-honored lament, of course—Shakespeare had quite a bit to say about this topic, minus the part about hooking up—but in order to make a creative work based on the search for love successful you normally need a plot and characters that an audience can actually care about. Except, of course, for people who just want sex scenes and regard anything else that you might put in a movie as a waste of time.
Those in the latter camp will not be disappointed in Beautiful Something—there’s a lot of fairly explicit sex, and it’s shot very nicely, as is the film in general—but while the characters have variety, they feel like sketches from a script meaning rather than actual people with lives beyond their moments on screen. For all that, I enjoyed watching Beautiful Something, and it’s definitely fared better with gay audiences than with reviewers in mainstream media outlets, so if you’re considering whether to watch it, one point of consideration might be which group is more likely to have tastes similar to yours.
Brian (Brian Sheppard) is a successful poet with writer’s block, a rapidly approaching deadline, and rapidly diminishing funds, none of which is making it any easier for him to get back on track. Drew (Colman Domingo) is an older, African-American sculptor who is successful but so obsessed with his work that he neglects his younger, live-in lover, Jim (Zack Ryan), an aspiring actor who also serves as Drew’s model and muse. Finally, Bob (John Lescault) is a wealthy Los Angeles-based talent agent rambling about the streets of Philadelphia looking to buy a little companionship of a deliberately temporary nature.
No points for guessing that the paths of these four men cross, on a single night, as inevitably and predictably as those of the characters in Crash, and much hopping into bed and expositional conversation ensues. In fact, despite quite a few exterior scenes, Beautiful Something feels a lot like a play, and perhaps the intensity of live performance would bring something to the rather schematic characters that would make this material work better. Of course, the sex scenes might not be acceptable in your local community theatre, but that’s an issue for another day.
Part of the reason I enjoyed Beautiful Something, despite its shortcoming as described above, may be that the film’s incomplete character development leaves you free to imagine lives and motivations for the characters, since Graham (who wrote the script as well as directly) isn’t doing that for you. I guess that’s as fair a reason to watch a film as any. I also loved the views of Philadelphia, from the shiny skyscrapers to the grimy alleyways, as captured by cinematographer Matthew Boyd. | Sarah Boslaugh
Beautiful Something is distributed on DVD by Ariztical Entertainment, and it’s also available on several digital platforms and on Cable on Demand. There are no extras on the disc.