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Get Real; Review by Robin Franson Pruter

get realOriginally released 30 Apr 1999
Written by Patrick Wilde
Directed by Simon Shore

Starring Ben Silverstone, Brad Gorton, and Charlotte Brittain

My rating: ★★★1/2 stars

Subtle coming out drama illustrates the awkwardness, angst, and elation of being a teenager.

Steven Carter (Ben Silverstone) wishes he could be honest. But, for the gay teen, that’s not so easy. He struggles daily with hiding his sexuality, but he fears the response of his family, friends, and peers if he were to live openly. His life is divided in two. There’s the face he presents to the world, and there’s his authentic inner self. He has two best friends—one for each side of his life. His neighbor Linda (Charlotte Brittain), an outspoken, heavyset, young woman knows his secret. Mark (Patrick Nielsen), his buddy and schoolmate, doesn’t.

Steven’s predicament reaches a crisis when he falls in love with the hottest, most popular boy in school, John Dixon (Brad Gorton). John is even more guarded than Steven. He refuses to acknowledge Steven at school for fear his mates will wonder about his sudden new “friendship” with the less popular boy. But the more Steven comes to care for John, the more Steven wishes he could share his feelings with the world.

This film gets a lot right about teenagers. They’re often gawky and uncool. At times, the characters act so painfully awkward that we feel embarrassed for them. Steven, like many teenagers, has no clear goals for his future, even as the end of high school approaches. He thinks, maybe, he’d like to become a writer one day. John, too, inwardly lacks direction despite the path he expects to follow. Everyone admires John for his plan to go to Oxford, but he doesn’t even remember making the decision to go there. His future has been laid out on rails, and he’s just following the track.

The film veers from triumph to heartbreak and back again. Everything takes on a heightened importance, as things tend to do at that angst-ridden age. One heart-wrenching scene near the end is so sad for all parties involved that we can’t help but feel the characters’ devastation. And, yet, what seems like the end of the world really isn’t, and life goes on, as the film sagely shows.

The strained relationship Steven has with his father (David Lumsden) is an unexpected bit of texture. All Steven’s problems, it seems, are not about his being gay. Mr. Carter is disappointed in his son’s aimlessness and tends to find fault with Steven. Yet, his disparagement of his son is not typically what is seen in films—melodramatic abuse. It’s subtle and realistic.

At times, the dialogue of the film seems too straightforward. In real life, people don’t confess their honest feelings as candidly as the characters here do. And, occasionally, the actors slip into monologue, an indication of the film’s origin as a stage play. Otherwise, the movie opens up the action nicely. In terms of scene structure, no one would guess that the film was originally a play.

None of the performers went on to have big screen careers. In the film, though, Silverstone is endearingly awkward, and Gorton is necessarily handsome. But the standout of the cast is Stacy Hart as a young woman who develops a crush on Steven and is hurt and later suspicious when he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings.

Much has changed since Get Real was released. LGBT teenagers have greater social acceptance now. Yet, while the idea of a gay teenager may be less shocking today and Steven would probably find more support, he would still discover living his life openly and honestly was not an easy path to choose.

 

STUFF THAT BOTHERS ONLY ME:

The film’s soundtrack contains great songs from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, but that’s a problem. These aren’t songs that teenagers in the late-1990s would be listening to. The one Backstreet Boys tune comes off as realistic, but the rest seem like they were songs that were popular at the time when the filmmakers were in high school instead of the time when the characters are.

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