A Hustler Turned Trophy Boy Deals With Heavy Consequences In Latest Indie LGBTQ Film
Each day I’m inspired by the LGBTQ community and their artistry. Whether I’m reading various entertainment or opinion blogs, seeing something eye-catching and funny on Instagram, or getting to enjoy music videos from uprising stars. But, let’s not kid ourselves… often the LGBTQ community’s artistry fails in one particular category: Independent films. Yes, we’ve had many successful gay-centric films such as Brokeback Mountain, Love Simon, But I’m A Cheerleader, and many more – but I’m talking about specifically the films you’d find the LGBTQ section of Netflix. Yeah, now you must know what I’m talking about. Not to completely discredit, but I struggle to find the last time an independent LGBTQ film sparked some emotion in me besides an eye roll. That is until I came across the latest…
Golden Boy tells the story of James (Mark Elias), a depressed, struggling soul living in… where else but Los Angeles. He’s living a crummy life with an apartment he’s about to lose. He winds up going to a cruising site where he is spotted by an older, wealthy man CQ (Lex Medlin) and begins living life as a trophy boy. James eventually gets wrapped up in a party boy lifestyle, complete with a villainous frenemy (Logan Donovan), a pretty, blonde-bottled party girl (Kimberly Westbrook), and a love interest in the naïve Josh (Paul Culos). As anticipated, James’ new life leads him into a downward spiral where he is soon battling addiction and self-discovery.
The plot may seem like a tale as old as time in the gay community, but the heart of the film remains constant. The battle of depression and want to succeed in a world of phony people with egos bigger than their wallet or aspirations can absolutely be a toll on someone who isn’t sure of themselves. Not only is the production value spectacular, but the acting chops in this LGBTQ film are outstanding. Elias is believable as a dimwit 20 something who would easily fall into a predator’s lap. Medlin gives off strong daddy vibes throughout and Donovan chews scenery and becomes one’s sole focus when he is given the air time. I was simply hypnotized from start to finish. If you’re looking for a perfect date movie, this is it.
I was fortunate enough to reach out to writer and star, the aforementioned Elias, to get some of his thoughts behind the film and the importance of watching. Elias tells:
“It is so important, I think. First of all, it’s a cautionary tale on several levels. Not making a choice is a choice! Going with the flow because it seems easier in the moment is a choice! It’s understandable to want to be seen by someone, anyone, in a city where it’s so easy to become invisible, and especially difficult when you’ve been buried under years of anonymity — but if you don’t make decisions, someone else will. (Donovan’s character) Houston isn’t kidding when he mentions being a shark. On another level, this is not a black and white world. I think we have seen that a lot lately (especially politically) but this is a world that exists out there, one that if you’re not prepared for, or unable to navigate, it will suck you in and QUICKLY — I truly believe people don’t reveal themselves as good or bad immediately — you tend to see it over time — or else how would they gain your trust in the first place? I’ve been at film festivals in both North Carolina and Cincinnati specifically where people have told me, ‘I lived this life, and I didn’t even know it until it was too late’ and another person who left the movie to cry in the bathroom because it hit so close to home.”
I pressed Elias on the Sugar Daddy rescuing that down on his luck “kid”. It’s become a gay staple… seriously, I know you know someone who has this story. I had to pry him on if any of the film was inspired by the fact that sex workers or escorts seem to be put on pedestals within the gay community and social life in general in Hollywood:
“It is so huge in this town. It’s ridiculous. And sometimes you don’t even see it coming. Other times you’re like, yeah I see exactly what’s going on there. But wow, when I walked into this world in my early 20s, I just couldn’t believe that those relationships were so prominent. It would probably be disingenuous to have this story live in another town, since the allure of fame plays a large role in it — though I’d be highly interested to see how this story translates to other cities/cultures. It took time for me to learn that just because someone is posing with sunglasses on social media or on someone’s arm at a red carpet event doesn’t mean they’re on a pedestal; we determine if they’re on a pedestal based on our reactions to that image. The funny thing about the whole scene is, and I’ve kind of always said this, probably 98% of the people come to Hollywood to be famous, and probably 2% actually come to be artists. I feel like those numbers are probably pretty accurate.”
When you watch the film, you’ll know that James isn’t some eighteen-year-old twink moving from Minnesota and watching into a Bryan Singer type of situation. He’s a grown man, my age to be exact. Elias explains why he chose to make the main character struggling as he approaches his thirties rather than a fresh out of high school youngster:
“I initially felt like, it’s understandable and so obvious if he’s late teen/early 20s. We’ve seen that so much. We know that story. Now take that person who has been slowly drowning for 8-10 years. How desperate does that make you? How much dignity have you lost? What would you do to regain it? How much of a blind eye would you turn? When you want to be something for so long and don’t get it? Now that person, I’m interested in watching. That person’s quiet desperation is fascinating to me.”
Paul Culos (pictured above), shocked me because he flawlessly portrayed a gay man, especially one in love, so well. Culos, who is heterosexual, had a lot to say bout heterosexual actors playing gay on screen:
“I’m an ally for LGBTQ+ actors in our field and believe wholeheartedly they should be cast in roles that speak to their identity and beyond. As an advocate I value the community’s opinion on the idea of straight actors portraying LGBTQ+ characters. LGBTQ+ actors need to be represented on screen and I know that the production team auditioned many gay men for this role. They should always have the opportunity to audition for the roles that portray them. In this instance, the production team felt that my approach to Josh was in line with their vision. As a heterosexual man, I was super grateful to be cast as Josh. Josh is a man who embodies a lot self-confidence, integrity, artistry, humor, charm. He absorbs the world without judgement. He believes in the best part of James. I felt a deep connection to Josh. He’s somebody I wish I was on a daily basis. He’s so selfless and forgiving with James. He makes himself completely vulnerable to him. He makes a practice of pursuing his art regularly. I found it easy to connect and believe in the relationship between Josh and James. As an actor I strive to connect intimately with the roles I’m cast in and be honest.”
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and doesn’t reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.