Friday, July 17, 2009

Film review: 'Outrage' aims fire at closeted anti-gay lawmakers

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., is one of the lawmakers
interviewed in Kirby Dick's documentary Outrage.

By Hap Erstein

It’s not the sexual orientation of so many gay politicians that bothers documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick, it’s the hypocrisy.

His partisan movie Outrage rehashes the outing of such well-publicized gay elected officials as New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey and Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, the latter having a particularly anti-gay voting record on marriage rights, HIV/AIDS, employment protection and hate crimes.

He also makes circumstantial cases against former New York Mayor Ed Koch, Republican campaign manager Ken Mehlman and, of particular interest to Florida viewers, Gov. and soon-to-be senatorial candidate Charlie Crist, who remains staunchly against gay adoption, even after the state Supreme Court ruled its prohibition unconstitutional.

Dick, whose previous works went after sexual predators in the Catholic Church and the shrouded film ratings system, knows how to build an argument on celluloid. In Outrage, he builds the case for outing self-loathing homosexual politicos, backed by the likes of openly gay Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, gay activist Larry Kramer and blogger Michael Rogers, whose website unapologetically outs hypocritical government officials.

Almost as interesting is Dick’s case against the mainstream media, which is demonstrably uncomfortable about following up on reports of such closeted hypocrites in the gay press and alternative weeklies such as New Times. At what point, wonders Dick, does journalistic caution become complicity?

But such is filmmaker Dick’s zeal to do some outing himself that he stoops to some dubious techniques of editing that juxtapose Crist, affably denying he is gay, with McGreevey, talking ruefully of the importance of being open and honest with the electorate. He is not referring to Crist, but not all viewers will make that distinction.

Although Outrage runs a mere hour-and-a-half, it meanders in the final reel, padding with tangential material like excerpts from Angels in America, notably Al Pacino’s scenery-chewing turn as self-denying Roy Cohn. While moviegoers are advised to keep a critical eye and ear to Dick’s case, he does present some compelling material worthy of attention.

OUTRAGE. Studio: Magnolia Pictures; Director: Kirby Dick. Not yet rated. Venue: Opens Monday at Emerging Cinemas, 709 Lake Ave., Lake Worth. Call: (561) 296-9382.

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