A Four Letter Word


In praise of Larry Kramer’s Faggots, specifically its forked satire, author Reynolds Price wrote: “It offers us oddly entertaining, generally exaggerated copies of foolish or evil behavior in order to provoke our ridicule.” As a litmus test, Casper Andreas’s A Four Letter Word is equally useful, proving that the line between Kramer’s prickly tragicomedy and the gay minstrelsy of Showtime’s Queer as Folk may only be a matter of taste. Shot in and around New York City’s queer hot spots (I see Vlada! I see Boys Room—the new one!), and brought to you in part by Manhunt, Andreas’s pun-choked rom-com asks only for our passive identification, preening on the same wavelength as Jesse Archer’s Luke, who sets out to prove that he is neither exception nor stereotype, only exceptional, after Stephen (Charlie David)—a hustler, professed top, and Luke’s future boy toy—calls him “a gay cliché.” “All our world sees of our community is you,” says Stephen, almost as if he were describing the film. Shrill to a most obnoxious extreme (“Let’s blow this joint,” says Stephen, to which Luke naturally responds, “I already have!”), the film’s sitcomish purview uncritically embraces the insularity of the queer community that it depicts, denying seriousness and replacing Kramer’s healthy self-deprecation with vulgar self-satisfaction.