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With: Scott Gurney, Michael Cunio, Roxanne Day, Taylor Negron, Richard Riehle, Deborah Harry, Guinevere Turner
Written by: Wash West
Directed by: Richard Glatzer, Wash West
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 98
Date: 02/11/2001

The Fluffer (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Wood Working

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

How refreshing to see a movie about gay characters who are all out of the closet and fully aware of which sex they prefer. Not to mention a movie that looks at the porn industry without awe or restraint. Put the two together and you get The Fluffer. A "fluffer," for those who don't know, is the person whose job it is to get male porn stars aroused just before a scene. Sean McGinnis (Michael Cunio) ends up with this job after arriving wide-eyed in Los Angeles hoping for a job in the film biz. The ball starts rolling when he accidentally rents a porn tape incorrectly stored in a Citizen Kane box and develops a crush on bad boy porn star Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney). He applies for a job as a cameraman but ends up doing all kinds of grunt work, from pasting stickers on porn tapes to fluffing Johnny. But this is not a cut-and-dried comedy-romance, as the movie's classic end title song, the Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love," implies. Johnny Rebel -- who goes by "Mikey" when not working -- lives with his girlfriend, a stunningly beautiful stripper named Julie (Roxanne Day), whose stage name is "Babylon." See, Johnny's a straight guy performing in gay porn because the money is supposedly better. (Though Ron Jeremy, who appears here in a cameo, makes pretty good cash in straight porn.)

Co-directors Richard Glatzer and Wash West clearly don't have many nice things to say about the porn industry. At one point, Sean meets a nice, normal guy and they start a relationship together, but Sean can't get his mind off Johnny Rebel. So he ruins a potentially good thing. The directors imply that porn can be a psychological addiction, ruining one's judgment and perspective of real life. At the same time, Glatzer and West don't shy away from the real works of the porn biz -- both funny and serious. As Sean describes it, "Even the most boring guy has some great stories to tell because at least he's taking a walk on the wild side." Yet we can clearly see that those who stay in the biz wind up burning out and fading away. The company Sean works for, Men of Janus, consists of industry losers and has-beens, from the crusty old Sam (Richard Riehle) to the witty female receptionist Silver (Adina Porter). During Sean's interview, one old porn monger gets a kick out of showing Sean a tape of one of his early "performances."

The Fluffer starts out breezy and funny but eventually develops into thick melodrama it can't quite handle. For example, Julie gets pregnant, but Mikey is too far gone on various drugs and long benders to care much what happens to the baby. And Sean becomes so obsessed with Johnny that he visits Julie at her dance club and solicits a sorrow-filled lap dance from her, asking her to describe Johnny to him while she grinds. But I so enjoyed the film's first half, and the convincing, three-dimensional world it creates, that I can recommend it nonetheless. It won me over with its complete lack of timidity and soapbox grandstanding that plague many other gay films. Likewise, I enjoyed the performances from the entire supporting cast, especially Day and Gurney, who imbues a soul into the otherwise workhorse porn star physique. Not to mention that the film boasts both Debbie Harry in a small role and the great Guinevere Turner in a cameo as the video store clerk who rents Sean the wrong tape. Turner co-wrote and played the lead in Go Fish (1994) and since then has made a steady career of cameos in films like Chasing Amy, Kiss Me Guido, Dogma and American Psycho (which she also co-wrote). It's always nice to see her.

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