As part of my movie watching for TGGeeks I’ve decided to take a look at movies for the LGBTQ community that have probably flown under most people’s radar, and the first movie I’m going to examine is Jeffrey London’s drama Arizona Sky.
Is it possible to find true happiness years after you thought it was lost? Can two people, separated by time and distance, find happiness? Can true love stand the test of time?
Jake and Kyle are the best of friends and living in some small town somewhere in desert area of Arizona. Kyle has picked up Jake to go camping out in the desert for one last get together before Jake has to leave with his dad and move to “the city.” Despite the laughing and joking they have together, there is clearly something unspoken between them, and when one gently touches the other on the arm it is stopped. Not because the other one is repulsed or hates the idea of a same sex attraction. It’s because of fear. Kyle fears that people will find out, and with Jake moving away he’ll be left all alone with no one to stand up next to him, and despite his declaration of caring for Jake, his fear prevents him from acting on his feelings for best friend.
Now it’s many years later and Jake is in the movie business. He’s supposed to be in pre-production for an independent sci-fi film, but he can’t get his head screwed on straight (pardon the expression). His work completely consumes him to where he has no life anymore, and he is now finding himself haunted by his past and unresolved situation with Kyle. It has become so bad he’s now starting to have serious anxiety attacks, so with some encouragement from his current (and very straight) best friend, he takes a break and goes back to that small town in Arizona. He eventually meets up with his old best friend Kyle, and what follows are some surprising revelations for the both of them.
Gay cinema has had its fingers in movies about unrequited love, and people discovering love later in life for some time. This was a somewhat charming, if not personal, twist on this theme. Here we have a couple of young men who are terrified to come out and be who they are because of where they live. Having lived pretty much all of my school life (late kindergarten through high school graduation) in a small town myself made this movie resonate in some ways with me. Having also gone to school in the 70’s didn’t make life any easier for me as I could easily see myself in this film as Jake and even my junior high crush in the role of Kyle. Writer/Director/Producer Jeff London has found something that pretty much anyone can relate to on some level. It doesn’t even have to be a gay themed film for this idea has been visited in much more mainstream movies over the last several decades. Here London has managed to find that one element (the fear of homophobia) and turned it into a very believable plot device. Even the dialogue might be viewed by some as stilted, but considering the nature of two men reuniting, both with unresolved issues, and neither precisely knowing what the other is feeling made the dialogue perfectly believable.
This movie is very character driven, and the cast here delivers quite wonderfully. Starting with Eric Dean, as the adult Jake, his acting is a joy to watch. Many actors can either be too over the top, or too reserved, but Dean is neither of these. He finds the perfect balance as if he was literally inhabiting the role. His sense of action and reaction in a scene is perfectly timed even to when he’s talking on a telephone. I have always found that to be one of the hardest types of performances to give, but Dean plays it very subtly to where you actually believe someone is feeding him the right lines for Jake to have that over the phone dialogue that is captured on film. His scene where he is about to reintroduce himself for Kyle is so well played I could literally feel my own heart beating rapidly with anxiety.
The adult Kyle, as played by James (Jayme) McCabe is a bit different. His performance doesn’t come off as reserved, but more as “controlled.” I found this unusual at first, but a final scene between Kyle and his aunt (beautifully played by the late Patricia Place) shows this isn’t the case. What we see instead is a very nuanced performance about a man living in small town USA and has become excellently skilled at bottling up his feelings to the point where everything about him feels restrained. His first reunion with Jake is uncomfortably awkward (and wonderfully performed by both actors), and as they spend time together you see Kyle trying to break out of those invisible restraints and tell Jake what he feels, only he has become so “comfortable” with them that he’s practically too afraid to do so. He even says that he likes to stay busy, which is definitely what a person in Kyle’s situation, in trying to hide from his feelings, would do. McCabe plays Kyle like a flower that has yet to bloom, but by the time the movie ends we see a completely different Kyle than the one we are introduced to.
One other character that must get a mention is Brent King as Jake’s present day best friend Steve. Here is another actor with some wonderful comedic chops, but also comes off as the voice of reason when he needs to. It’s not easy balancing both of those aspects of a character and making it seem like one person, but King finds the perfect way to transition from being an almost reckless fun loving guy to the thoughtful friend that Jake needs.
If there is any flaw with this movie it briefly comes within the last 15 or so minutes. From the moment Jake reunites with Kyle the positivity that is radiated from the story just grows and grows. However, in a bizarre moment there is a reminder that homophobia exists. What is odd about it is that there doesn’t appear to be any follow-up. It just happens rather out of the blue, and there is clearly supposed to be some emotional fallout, but we never see it. Instead we are treated to a very peaceful, final scene between Jake and Kyle. While the homophobic scene itself isn’t inappropriate, it might have served the narrative a bit better had it occurred perhaps 15 minutes earlier. It would have made for what followed to ring with more truth. Instead it serves as a very weird speed bump in the movie, but not to the point where it took me out of the movie watching experience.
Arizona Sky is currently available on DVD through Wolfe Video and can be streamed through Amazon Prime.
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