PJ and I just finished watching Boy Culture, a movie about “X,” a gay prostitute in love with one of his roommates. Here’s the trailer:

The movie stars Derek Magyar as X. X is very successful in his work. He’s twenty-five, ruggedly handsome, and very good at his job. While he limits the number of his clientele to just twelve men, they pay him well. For tax purposes, he has taken on two roommates. The youngest is Joey, played by Jonathon Trent, an eighteen-year-old partier who, though he takes full advantage of his youthful attractiveness, still can’t seduce the man he wants most, X.

Andrew, played by Darryl Stephens, is the other roommate. As X relates early in the film, the movie is really all about Andrew. X is in love with him but is too afraid of rejection to fully open himself to the possibility of love. Hence, the plot of the film: Will X and Andrew overcome their differences and get together or will their respective issues stand in their way?

Boy Culture is based on a novel of the same name by Matthew Rettenmund. I read the novel last year and really liked it. In fact, I had thought seriously about teaching it in my Lesbian & Gay Literature class this past time (but ended up teaching Hard by Wayne Hoffman instead).

What I like most about the novel, however, is what’s missing from the movie. Rettenmund’s book avoids sentimentality even while telling a love story. It also contains quite a bit of sex, much of it somewhat graphically related. The movie, however, revels in sentimentality — surprisingly so for a film about a hustler. It also pretty much avoids sex — except for a comic montage of X’s clients, a little shirtlessness every now and then, and lots of talk about sex, the movie is down right staid compared to something like Queer as Folk (British or American version) or Dante’s Cove.

Where the film really departs from the novel is in its depiction of Gregory, X’s new client, played by Patrick Bauchau. Don’t get me wrong — Bauchau is great in the part. But the character ultimately becomes the focal point of the film’s sentimentality, which is a big departure from the novel.

Gregory spends most of his time with X talking rather than having sex. In particular, he relates his own story of love and partnership with another man. As X learns more of their story, he begins to take it as a model for his own potential relationship with Andrew. The movie adds to this role by having Gregory enter X’s world in an extremely improbable turn of events — I couldn’t help but ask myself, for example, how Gregory found out not where X lives but where his lesbian friend works so that she could point out where he lives.

Gregory’s entrance into X’s private life changes some of the details in the movie’s resolution. These changes augment the sentimentality and ultimately make me question its point. The novel’s playful call for absolution is now unnecessary in the film — by the end, the audience is left with no choice but forgive X of his “sins” and applaud his newfound ability to love.

While the script goes awry for me, the actors do not. Like I’ve already said, Bauchau is wonderful in the part of the eighty-year-old client, and Magyar anchors the film well. He’s definitely attractive and never seems to be “acting.” Trent has the more flamboyant role (and the most nudity). He too does a good job, especially considering the fact that, like Magyar, he reportedly isn’t gay. His Joey is flaming without being annoyingly so. Stephens breaks out of his association with Noah in Noah’s Arc, though his part is the most underwritten of the three main characters. All three play their parts well and without descending too much into stereotype and cliche.

So, on the whole, Boy Culture is an enjoyable movie, but I’d definitely recommend reading to book.