"BEAR CITY" Sex, Love, and Laughs in A City Where Bigger is Better...
Tyler (Joe Conti) is a 21-year old, easy-on-the-eyes aspiring actor with a hidden passion: a fondness for big, hairy guys. To put it in official terms, he's a bear chaser. (When we first meet him, Ty is dreaming that he's screwing Santa Claus!) Ty keeps his bear-otic fantasies on the down low from Simon (Alex Di Dio)-- his horny, sarcastic twink of a roommate who quips lines like, "You can sleep when you're dead... or 25!". Ty secretly longs to be part of New York City's seemingly ideal community of gorditos and ositos, grizzlies and cubs. When monogamous couple Fred (Brian Keane) and Brent (Stephen Guarino) suddenly have a room available in their den, Ty jumps right in. Along with the new space comes his entry into a tight-knit family of bears and the men who love them. Welcome to Douglas Langway's "Bear City": a world where being furry is a plus, and bigger is clearly better. Residents of this colorful sloth include Michael (Gregory Gunter) and Carlos (James Martinez), a devoted couple whose relationship is put to the test when chubby bear Michael decides to have lap band surgery to lose weight. At the same time, equally devoted couple Fred and Brent contemplate "opening up" their relationship. We also meet the "muscle bears"-- a bunch of A-listers who spend as much time at the gym as they do at Dallas BBQ or The NYC Eagle. The reining king of these men is a silver fox named Roger (Gerald McCullouch), called "the Unobtainable Ark of the Covenant Bear" by one character. It's only a matter of time before Ty gets intrigued by this cocksure stud, who fascinates the kid with pseudo-philosophical banter at the bowling alley. Ty acquires a woofy new look, which gets Roger's attention at the bar... but only until a hairier, seriously built guy with a killer Spanish accent (Sebastian La Cause) shows up. As you may have guessed, the highly sexual Roger may not be quite ready to settle down. Can Ty, our cub-in-training, trap his hirsute hottie?
As Roger, Gerald McCullouch is lit up like a rock star in many shots, and he's got the screen presence to match it-- although in his more sensitive scenes, you can see just the right amount of vulnerability in the actor's umber-colored eyes. As Ty's wise-cracking best friend, Alex Di Dio as Simon gets many of "Bear City"'s funniest one-liners. It's hard to top the crowd-pleasing reaction when he walks into a bear bar and declares,"Hello, ursine creatures. I come in peace!". Stephen Guarino as Brent, however, also gets his fair share of verbal zingers as well. As in "Sex and the City" (the movie's likely inspiration), a few smart issues are explored, but never too heavily to bring down the movie's lighthearted feel. This is a bona fide romantic comedy, with equal parts of both romance and laughs. One of the many highlights is when Fred and Brent bring home a super-fuzzy guy named "Uncle Mel" (Blake Evan Sherman) for a threesome. Thanks to expert acting (much of it wordless) and comedic timing by all three actors, the results are hilarious. Also in the vein of "Sex and the City", there are some rather explicit sex scenes-- most of them featuring McCullouch. The director engages in some campy self-indulgence in one segment where Ty and Simon go on a shopping orgy for new gear: there's a montage of the two in a seemingly endless array of outfits, set to RuPaul's "Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous". For some true New York flavor, the film features a virtual "Who's Who?" of real-life members of Manhattan's bear community in many roles, as well as cameos by NYC personalities Robynne Kaamil, Michael Musto, and Randy Jones of The Village People.
The characters occasionally make references to the pervasive "body Nazism" that permeates the gay male community as well as our society in general. (It's impossible not to be moved by Gregory Gunter's Michael, who's grappling with fat prejudice.) Intentionally or not, watching the men in "Bear City" go about their daily lives, even when they don't say a word, is a statement about body image in itself. When these beary guys lounge around bare-chested, or cuddle with each other in T-shirts and shorts, there are no attempts by the director to conceal their love handles and other so-called "imperfections" with special lighting or strategic angles. The actors don't suck in their bellies or tighten their chests for the camera. As a result, these characters come across as real as the movie's genuine NYC locations... and, to lovers of guys with some meat on their bones, there's an equally real sex appeal going on. "Bear City" is a Doug Langway's loving celebration of a segment of the GLBT community which has been severely under-represented in all aspects of the gay male media. The movie's charm and humor, however, should be appreciated by audiences of all sexual orientations and tastes-- from New York to New South Wales.
"Bear City" is now available on DVD. Visit BearCitytheMovie.com for more!