Towards the end of HP Mendoza’s directorial debut musical, Fruit Fly, there’s a song where the cast sing about doing workshop versions of stage productions. While presumably the inference is that much of life feels like a workshop for the main act, when it is actually the main act, I couldn’t help wondering whether it was actually a bit of a mea culpa for the movie itself.
It’s not that the movie is bad – far from it in fact – just that it does have the feel of being a workshop that hasn’t quite found itself yet, which becomes evident when it has to resort unnecessarily to postmodern effects to underline its themes and ideas. But enough with the poncey deconstruction. Is it worth a look?
A sort of musical riff on Armistead Maupin’s Tales Of The City, Fruit Fly focuses on Bethesda (Renigen), a performance artist newly back from the Philippines (where she was searching for her birth parents), who moves into a room in a San Francisco artsy commune. Keen to put on a new show, but facing difficulty finding a space to do it in, she meets the various other people who live in her house – who range from a gay production designer to two lesbians to a 17-year-old who believes he’s an misunderstood artist – as well as various other colourful character in the SF art scene.
This rather thin plot is expounded through an array of musical numbers that ensure this is less about the what and more about the why and the who. As well as the art scene, the musical numbers are also interested in the modern gay experience as well as that of being a ‘fag hag’ and what’s in it for the women who are out with gay men every night.
It’s a fun flick that could have done with being a bit tighter (perhaps a bit more workshopping!) and sometimes needs the courage of its convictions, but it works a lot better than the elements that make it up might suggest. It certainly bodes well for the future, as HP Mendoza looks like a real talent to watch. In the meantime, Fruit Fly is well worth a look, both for its exploration of the birthplace of gay culture and its fun and sometimes clever musical numbers.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac