Gerald McCullouch of TV’s CSI: Crime Scene Investigation fame makes an impressive feature film directorial debut starring in Daddy, Dan Via’s deft screen adaptation of the play that brought the duo considerable acclaim a few years back at Hollywood’s Hudson Theatre.
Like the Rick Sparks-directed stage production, Daddy The Movie centers on the silver-foxy Colin (McCullouch) and the not so vulpine Stewart (Via), gay best friends since college despite a hotness disparity that generally leaves Stewart sulking by his lonesome as his bestie tricks with hottie after hottie after hottie.
No wonder then that Stew is considering leaving his teaching post at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon for warmer SoCal climes, if only to assert his independence from Colin, particularly now that his TV commentator bff has embarked on what looks to be more than a one-hour stand with 21-year-old intern Tee (Jaime Cepero).
True, Colin may already have a thing for young men half his age, but Tee stands out among your run-of-the-mill twink. A drop-dead gorgeous African-American with a lickable North Carolina drawl, Tee’s back story makes him particularly daddy-worthy, the college student having been raised by a gay-hating preacher grandpa following the car crash deaths of his lesbian moms.
Colin and Tee’s ensuing affair not only blurs the lines of professional ethics (though, as Colin points out, Tee isn’t Colin’s intern per se), it generates a rivalry between Tee and Stew for the lion’s share of Colin’s time and attention, Stew continuing to treat Colin’s apartment as his home away from home, Tee complaining vociferously about Stew’s near constant presence in their midst.
When Stew is offered a more prestigious teaching post at UCLA, Tee sees this as a heaven-sent chance to keep the best friends a continent apart. Stew, on the other hand, considers it his duty to protect his buddy from Tee’s excessive interest in Colin’s family relations and his past, and he begins his own background check on the mysterious young man, the results of which would do Euripides or Sophocles proud.
It’s no easy task turning a three-character play into a film, but Via has accomplished just that.
Yes, Daddy The Play did already have a cinematic feel to it, but McCullouch and his screenwriter costar have opened it up to make Pittsburgh seem almost a featured player, a particularly noteworthy achievement given that only thirty-six hours of a less than two-week shoot were filmed in that city and not in L.A. (Credit cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko, film editor Peggy Davis, production designer Heidi Koleto, and art director Brooks Fairley for this remarkable trompe l’oeil.)
Also, Daddy’s stage-to-screen switch allows screenwriter Via to expand and enrich his play’s third act, leading to a less abrupt, more satisfying denouement.
McCullouch and Via are every bit as terrific on screen as they were at the Hudson, an opposites-attract friendship between an effortlessly sexy man magnet and his prematurely curmudgeonly life sidekick, and Via’s script allows both actors to dig deep as it does the handsome and talented Cepero, as irresistibly likable here as his Ellis proved hiss-worthy on TV’s Smash.
Tamlyn Tomita is a standout among supporting players as Colin’s supportive boss/friend Sharlene; finely delineated cameos are delivered by Mackenzie Astin, Leslie Easterbrook, Deidra Edwards, Scott Henry, Jay Jackson, Mia Matthews, Fred Ochs, Patrick Richwood, Richard Riehle, John Rubinstein, and Brooke Anne Smith; and Matt Crabtree appears delightfully in a DVD deleted-scene extra. (Casting is by Mary-Margaret Kunze.)
Rob Gokee’s musical soundtrack ups the drama and suspense throughout with Corey TuT’s original songs adding to the film’s appeal. Costume designer Sharrelll Marin deserves kudos as well.
I enjoyed Daddy The Play so much back in 2011 that I returned to the Hudson to see it a second time, and I’m guessing that a single viewing of Daddy The Movie will not be enough.
Tee’s not the only one whose heart belongs to Daddy.
June 15, 2016