Kirby Dick’s last film, This Film is Not Yet Rated, had a wonderful premise, exposing the hypocrisy and discrimination of the MPAA, the movie ratings board, by comparing sex scenes that were deemed acceptable for a mass audience, white and straight, vs. very similar content with black and/or gay couples, which were not. Using a private detective, Dick went as far as tracking down the members of this elusive group whose members are purposefully hidden from the public. He identified each and every one of those “spokesmen” for the American family and just as he was able to make a real breakthrough, by interviewing some of them and asking them how they made decisions, or if the rumors about Catholic priests sitting on the process were true, the movie ended. We were left with the names of people we never hear from and that we would not recognize on the street, making all the work Dick did rather pointless.
Outrage, in which Dick apparently intended to expose the hypocrisy of gay politicians who vote against gay issues and stay in the closet (the repeated implication is that they vote against their own interests precisely because they are ashamed of themselves), falls into the same trap. If you know anything about the subject matter, there is no reason to see the movie. If you’re familiar with the fact that former NY mayor Ed Koch, Congressman David Drier, former Congressman Jim McCrery, former Arizona mayor Neil Giuliano, former RNC chairman and Republican strategist Ken Mehlman, Fox News’ Shepard Smith, and a few others might be or are gay, then you’ve saved yourself $10. Seeing as the movie is small and shot on video, it seems better suited to TV anyway, which will likely be its inevitable mainstay (from Outrage‘s cheap look, it’s pretty clear there was more money spent on legal consultations to avoid libel than on the actual movie).
What’s left, besides talking heads from gay alliance and former Log Cabin Republican members expressing anger about being lied to and an unfortunately minimal discussion about the appropriateness of outing, seeing as it makes being gay into some sort of crime to be exposed, are the witticisms of openly gay Congressman Barney Frank and former NJ Governor Jim McGreevey’s phony media manipulation disguised as sincerity (which includes him crying to the camera), and a lengthy segment on Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s sexuality, and how the mainstream press seems to have avoided talking about it, despite plenty of clear evidence. It is really unclear who the audience is for the movie, except those who need their worldview reinforced. There are no new revelations, and just as with This Film Is Not Yet Rated, it is very unfocused and broad, jumping around far too much, despite covering only one topic. Dick works far better in intimate, specific situations (as opposed to Michael Moore, who does better with the throw-a-dart-at-the-wall style of filmmaking), such as his amazing documentaries, Sick and the just released to DVD, Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate. Both Sick and Private Practices are awkward, incredibly personal, and so insightful as to make the viewer thoroughly uncomfortable, never letting you shy away from its honesty. Outrage is made from a distance, only skimming the surface of its fascinating subject matter, missing opportunity after opportunity by cutting to news clips, and PR coups staged as honest and direct interviews. There are very few memorable moments in Outrage, a brief discussion on beard wives and their state of mind, gay frat houses where a soon-to-be political figure makes his frequent “pilgrimage” to, so he can deflower the members, but mostly it is vague and there are no scenes of real discovery, or even a “gotcha” interview. The thrown together feel of the movie suggests that it was trying to hurry up in order to capitalize on something, but that something never arrives, a shame considering how easily a movie like this could open up discussions in conservative schools and communities. Outrage, like This Film Is Not Yet Rated, is important, even if it isn’t much good.
A lengthy interview of Outrage director Kirby Dick can be read here.