When I decided to review a bunch of queer movies in honor of Pride Month, I had two goals: to review The Matrix trilogy–the directors are trans sisters, so that’s why I opened with the “or were made by queer creators” caveat–and to review Strapped, which is probably my favorite gay movie. It’s a bit of an odd one, but did you really expect anything less from me by this point?
The story follows an unnamed male hustler–although actor Mr. Benjamin Bonenfant calls him “Adam” in a behind-the-scenes feature–as he encounters a number of men in an apartment building while trying to find the exit. The first is John, a man who has never had gay sex but once told his childhood friend, Alexander, that he loved him, only for his friend to attack him and move away. The Hustler says his name is also “Alex” and gives a tragic backstory, the combination seemingly putting John at ease. That’s the Hustler’s modus operandi–changing himself to fit the situation he finds himself in. But as the movie progresses, more and more we start seeing who he really is. He also steals a gryphon miniature from John, which first of all: rude. Second of all: I’ve worked in a game store long enough to recognize that as a Reaper Miniatures model from their Warlord line. LET ME HAVE MY NERD MOMENT, DAMN IT!
After John, he runs into Leon, a coked up party gay who mistakes him for someone he knows named Eddy. “Eddy” goes along with it, acting like… well, for lack of a better word, a sassy slut. While at Leon’s place he meets Gary (Nick Frangione) who will be important later. We see a moment where “Eddy” gets too in character, putting on lipstick in the bathroom before seemingly realizing that’s not who he really is, wiping the makeup off. After that he runs into a married man named David who totally isn’t gay–no way!–but would really like to eat ass. The Hustler, now calling himself “Max,” is reluctant as he’s now not into gay shit either, but goes along with it. After sucking “Max’s” dick, David turns violent and attacks, letting up only when another man walks in on them. That man is Sam, an older gay gentleman who I adore. “Jeff” and he have the best conversations in the movie, talking about how the previous gay generation fought on the frontlines so that the current generation–which I guess is my generation since this came out a decade ago–could be as sexually free as it is.
But the Hustler still can’t find his way out of this maze. Or is it a labyrinth? One is a trap, the other is a journey. He runs into Gary again, who has a very specific request: he wants a kiss. A deep and passionate kiss that would remind him that he’s able to connect with people, giving him the energy he needs to write. The Hustler is hesitant, but eventually relents. What follows is my favorite sex scene put to film, which doesn’t technically involve any actual sex. Widows to Sky’s “Tomorrow’s So Yesterday” is forever my jam. Gary is inspired and the Hustler feels a genuine connection for the first time. He finds the exit, but instead turns back and wordlessly reunites with Gary. Oh, and he gives the gryphon to Gary. It’s not super important, but I gotta bring it up since I made such a big deal about it earlier.
Slight aside, the song that plays as the Hustler is leaving Gary’s place is Jay Brannan’s “Housewife,” a song I recognized! And immediately panicked the first time I saw Strapped, because the end of the song reveals that the described idyllic situation was just a dream. Oh no! The Hustler was super tired after a night of fucking and acting, so could this happy ending also be just a dream?! It wasn’t and I was overthinking, but that’s how I operate.
One thing I especially love about this movie is it dropping references, but not focusing on them. The philosopher Michel Foucault is mentioned, but nothing is lost if you didn’t know who that was (as I didn’t the first time I saw this). The film Querelle and the story of St. Sebastian are also touched upon, but more as a treat to those who notice them. The one reference that’s actually related to the plot is when Leon tells Eddy’s backstory of being a promiscuous gay youth rebelling against his political father, but one of the listeners points out that’s the plot to My Own Private Idaho. Explained just fine, but a nod to gay culture. I love it. I just really love this film.
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