BFI Flare 2015: Tiger Orange

London LGBT Film Festival 2015

"An absent mother and a harsh father don’t make for the happiest beginnings and Todd is the brother who left town, while Chet stayed, looked after his father and ran the family hardware store. When Todd’s promiscuous LA lifestyle falls apart and he is forced to return home, the story properly begins. Chet’s shy refusal to engage with a gay lifestyle is thrown into high relief by Todd’s very modern engagement with online sex, outdoor cruising and full-on misbehaving. The clash of cultures forces both of them to re-examine who they are."

It's natural that any talk of Tiger Orange will revolve around Frankie Valenti - better known as the porn star Johnny Hazzard - who stars in Wade Gasque’s debut feature. A porn star gets bums on the seats, and hogs the limelight, voluntarily or not. That burden is unfair on Valenti, and the film, distracting us from what's really important: the story. I went into the cinema blissfully unaware of Valenti's turn: Tiger Orange is just one of twelve features I'm seeing at this year's BFI Flare festival, and by the time I sat down to watch, I couldn't remember a thing I'd read about it. Valenti sure looks familiar, I thought as the film rolled. Where had I seen him before? Another indie flick? A web series? Stepping out of NFT1 (and small town California) and onto the Southbank, I found myself pleasantly surprised when it finally clicked, because Valenti is the best thing in this film. (Darryl Stephens - gay indie royalty and Noah's Arc alumni - has an all too brief cameo.)

Admittedly, he gets the best hand. Valenti is the wild Todd; he gets to be sexy, funny, and out of control. Ty Parker has the thankless task of portraying his boring, stay at home, sexless brother Chet (Variety says, "The pic is hindered by Chet’s colorlessness: Vanilla is too flavorful a description for the character.")

Tiger Orange is an interesting twist on that hoary old trope, the polar opposite brothers. Chet (Parker) might be straight, but he isn't straight. And Todd (Valenti) isn't trying to get away from smalltown USA: he's come back. And it works. Tiger Orange is a warm, engaging, and rewarding little film - it's a "nice" film, as programmer Brian Robinson said in his introduction (he also said it's very much a "festival film", perhaps to downplay the expectations of thirsty queens who'd come to see Johnny Hazzard and not Frank Valenti). It won't set the world on fire, but anyone who's seen it will look back fondly. "Tiger Orange? That's the one with Johnny Hazzard, right? Yeah, it was a sweet movie. It was nice."

Next: Mala Mala.

Read last year's reviews.


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