Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

Trying to make it in London

Glamour Dolls

Written and Directed by John De Luca

Released December 2016
Drama (foreign: England)
110 min.


Review by Stephen O. Murray

September 14, 2017.

Glamour Dolls is a 2016 low-budget, independent British film written, directed, coproduced and starring John De Luca. He plays Ben, a Latino who aspires to be a (stage-) writer and an actor, but is auditioning for commercials (“adverts” in British English) and working regularly as a rent-boy (male prostitute), sometimes with his flatmate, Adam [the pallid and droopy Dominik Danielewicz], who aspires to be a painter, is getting no work as an actor and not much as a rent-boy.

 Why the two are friends is a mystery to me. Ben tries to look out for Adam and get him work. It becomes apparent that Adam is in love with Ben and that Ben is either unaware of that or ignoring it. Ben has a strident blond girlfriend, and Adam is unhappy that Ben has given her a key to their apartment—which, BTW, is quite spacious for struggling artistes or marginally successful male prostitutes in London, where space is at a premium.

Adam flees from a scene in which he and Ben are playing naughty sons of a female client who has had them dress as schoolboys, antagonizing their pimp, Larry [Laurence Christopher], who demands that the two join a cabaret drag show he manages that is called “Glamour Dolls.”

I think that Adam looks better in drag than out of it and Ben looks OK tottering on very high heels.

Adam meets Jodie [Emma Parker], an entertainment journalist interested in writing about struggling actors (an abundant and readily available species). After she plies them with a number of gin and tonics, Ben persuades Adam to leave him alone with the attractive young woman (who has not imbibed any alcohol) and seemingly tells her that he and Adam are appearing in drag.

A rent-boy sex scandal breaks, which increases the audience at “Glamour Dolls.” Gay impresario Peter Thorne [Ian Black] thinks the notoriety will extend to Ben’s play and mounts it. After being beaten up by his girlfriend [Ashley Walker], Ben has moved out, and Adam sinks into drugs. Ben’s 15 minutes of fame soon expire and he realizes (too late!) that he has neglected his sort-of little brother.

At least from what is included in the movie, neither of the not-so-young youths are full-fledged prostitutes. That is, they perform erotic scenes of their clients’ fantasies but don’t have sex with their clients or with each other for their clients’ entertainment. Ben is “gay for pay,” and both reluctantly take the stage in drag (in a reversal of the usual bucking up, Adam tells Ben that they are supposed to be actors, so should act).

Many scenes went on way too long, especially shots of mixing paints, mushed up to black, smeared on Adam’s hands, and washing his hands. I also find it hard to credit that anyone would pay to watch the tall sad-sack Adam. Danielwicz strikes me as a suitable Dracula, but not a plausible rent-boy. De Luca is handsome enough to be believable and IMHO, as writer-director, put too much focus on Adam. Not that De Luca is all that charismatic and is better as an observer than as a protagonist. Ben is rather passive with his female sex partners, beaten up by one, mounted by another (while on the other side of the wall Adam is pounding an enthusiastic female partner who thinks he is speaking to her rather than to Ben).

Though distributed by TLA, I do’t think Glamour Dolls is a “gay movie.” Also, there is no frontal male nudity, and only a glimpse of De Luca’s derrière as he flees the apartment of one client. But the movie is not a bad portrayal of the humiliations those trying to make careers in entertainment or art undergo.

©2017, Stephen O. Murray

About The Author

Stephen O. Murray grew up in rural southern Minnesota, earned a B.A. from James Madison College (within Michigan State University), an M.A. from the University of Arizona, a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto (both in sociology), and was a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley (in anthropology). He is the author of American Gay, Homosexualities, etc. and lives in San Francisco.