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The Trip


The Trip (2002)


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Writer-director Miles Swain's modern historical romance The Trip has been a sensation on the gay-and-lesbian film-festival circuit since it made its debut last year, which only proves that festival patrons' passion for tolerance extends to giving creaky, cliché-ridden indies huge amounts of leeway. Not that The Trip is without its charms, chief among them Steve Braun as a wry, soulful gay-rights activist. Braun meets Republican journalist Larry Sullivan in 1973 and maintains a relationship with him for more than a decade, which Swain bridges by offering periodic file-footage montages of rallies, parades, and news clippings that signify the key notches on the contemporary gay-rights timeline. The flashes of documentary realism offer more insight into the times than Swain's clumsy attempts to pinpoint era and character with loaded cultural references. One of the first lines uttered in The Trip is a conservative newspaper editor's grumble, "Those damn unions make my blood boil," and the groaner dialogue continues through smutty double-entendres like "I just love Dick." (Nixon, that is!) It doesn't help that Sullivan has twice as much screen time and half as much charisma as Braun, or that Swain can't resist the comic relief of the excruciatingly swishy Alexis Arquette, who gets the honor of uttering the film's worst line when he snaps at a blow-dried TV reporter, "You Farrah Fawcett major asshole... Haul your twat out of here!" But Swain gets credit for ambition and a good heart, and for securing the rights to period-specific music by the likes of T. Rex, Three Dog Night, Missing Persons, and Bruce Springsteen—heavyweights who give his low-budget picture some borrowed polish. And even as The Trip is indulging the love-story convention of "the terrible misunderstanding," and sputtering to a melodramatic finale involving an actual Mexican standoff, Swain has the sense to stick with the moving interactions of Braun and Sullivan, whose longtime companionship is rare in any movie, gay-themed or not.