The talent behind “Longhorns” is quite impressive. It’s the third time out of the gate for writer/director David Lewis, who is also is an editor at and reviews films for the San Francisco Chronicle. His previous films, “Rock Haven” and “Redwoods.” both take place in northern California and do a wonderful job capturing what it means to be a gay man living north of the Gay Mecca. H. P. Mendoza is “Longhorns” triple threat ö serving as producer and editor and writing the filmâs original score. Mendoza is best known for his 2006 film “Colma: The Musical.” The local boys seem a bit out of their element in Texas, where the “Longhorns” is set, but they manage to elicit both raunchy humor and emotional resonance.
Itâs 1982 on the campus of the University of Texas and we are introduced to our frat boy leading man, Kevin (Jacob Newton), banging a cheerleader while fantasizing about his bubba frat bro Justin (Kevin Held). When Kevin, a reluctant budding artist, encounters openly gay Cesar (Derek Villanueva) itâs obvious where this is going. Matters get complicated when Kevin is beckoned by his horny jock BFF Steve (Dylan Vox) to his Îcabin.â Note to creative team: Texans donât have cabins they have ranches ö no matter how small the may be. Filling you in on too much more of the plot would spoil the fun, but suffice it to say that VHS porn plays an important part in mixing up sexual persuasions.
The filmâs dialogue leans toward stilted and obvious when boy meets boy, when boy loses boy, and when boy grapples with sexuality. Weâre offered tidbits of real emotion, but Lewis too often opts out for the obvious when the lovers converse. The ‘coming out’ storyline leads us down the familiar ambiguous path favored by the new ‘New Queer Wave,’ “Longhorns” truly hits itâs stride when the screenplay gets playful and allows the characters to cut loose both emotionally and sexually. The situations and banter fulfill long-held hom- fantasies featuring straight boys fascination with porn, circle jerks, and forcing a homophobe into a compromising position.
Despite “Longhorns'” failure to settle comfortably into one genre, it all works because of its talented cast. Thereâs a lot to be said for a director and producer who can convince every male lead to go full frontal. The characters, fleshed out by these guys, are sassy, sensuous, and surprising sensitive. Thereâs some serious depth when Lewis stops playing it safe and allows his story to move into uncharted territory. The audience would have been better served, had Lewis settled into a new realm for him ö the risqu