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With: David Drake
Written by: David Drake
Directed by: Tim Kirkman
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 81
Date: 04/29/2000

The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me (2001)

1 Star (out of 4)

Kiss of Death

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One-man shows come a dime-a-dozen in the world of theater, but they're an even rarer breed in cinema. I can think of only two interesting movies based on one-person shows, Julia Sweeney's God Said, 'Ha!' (1998) and Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia (1987, directed by Jonathan Demme). Now comes David Drake's The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, directed by Tim Kirkman. And I now understand why.

The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me is based on Drake's successful play which opened in New York and won an Obie award. I can only assume it won this award because it's a passionate play full of messages. I suspect it might have played well with Drake right there in the room with you. But as an image on the movie screen, Drake becomes a detached figure, a nobody who needs to start from scratch to draw us in.

He fails within minutes. Director Kirkman begins by ripping off Demme's visual ideas from Swimming to Cambodia. Drake is a mediocre writer at best and his language and poetry is second-rate. He yells everything out, speaking slowly and enunciating, underlining the mediocrity (the movie was filmed during live performances). As if that weren't enough, Drake insists upon repeating words and phrases over and over and over again. I suppose he thinks he's driving the point home, but instead he's insulting us. The only thing he really accomplishes with this endless repetition is to extend a thimble-full of material to a feature-length movie.

There's more. Drake demonstrates his monstrous ego to us with stories about meeting people in a gym. He strips in front of us, showing off his underwear, and lifts a barbell (sans weights) for several minutes. He does virtually the same routine in a dance club, but this time he dances for us for about 20 minutes, repeating the same little chant over and over and over again.

When Spalding Gray speaks to us in he does so in a way that makes us see pictures. He speaks visually. Julia Sweeney tells the story of her brother's cancer, but does so in a remarkably funny and piercingly honest way. Drake fails to do either of these things. His would-be poetry is so flaccid that we don't see anything but his typewriter going, and his personality is so abrasive that we can't identify with him.

Drake fails miserably in making his material travel past the edge of the stage. The only way you'd identify with this material is if you'd lived a distinctly similar life, gay in New York in the 1980s. If you haven't, forget it.

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