Movie Review By: Bryan Fox / Blogger

When satirizing homosexuality in contemporary film, it is easy to fall into one of two pitfalls: either a crass oversensationalism of the gay man (Robin Williams in “The Birdcage”) or a harping on easy stereotypes which belies a gross misunderstanding of what it actually means to be gay (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”). Lokas, by director Gonzalo Justiniano, is an affable-enough comedy with a touch of romance which falls somewhere between the aforementioned extremes. In all fairness, it is probably necessary to contextualize this film with an acknowledgement of the prevailing Latino attitudes towards homosexuality in general, which are exemplified by the gruff, unapologetically homophobic views of its protagonist, the widower Charly (Rodrigo Bastidas). After a series of run-ins with the law ends with him spending a few days incarcerated, Charly is exiled from Mexico City by his mother (with whom he lives), along with his young son (played with cereal-commercial unflappability by Raimundo Bastidas, the elder’s real-life son). They head to the coastal resort town of Viña del Mar, Chile, to reunite with a father Charly has neither seen nor heard from in over 30 years. And – surprise! – papá Mario (veteran Chilean comedian Coco Legrand, a stage name which sounds like nothing if not a Bond Girl from the seventies) is now a very out homosexual with a live-in lover, Flavio (Mexican actor Rodrigo Murray), who is closer to Charly’s age than his own.

What follows is a plot twist that strains the boundaries of belief, even within the genre of slapstick comedy, as the only job Charly can get in Chile with his criminal record is one organized by Flavio as a barman in Lokas, a gay discoteca in Viña – where he has to feign gayness (Oh, the comic potential!) in order to maintain his position. There is more than a touch of the aforementioned “Chuck and Larry” misunderstanding of homosexuality when the film would have us believe that, with a new haircut, a tight-fitting shirt, some black slacks and an affected falsetto, Charly readily evolves from Señor Hombre to Doña Mariposa within the length of his first shift at the bar, as if ‘Gay’ is a nothing more than a frilly pink hat one can don and doff at will. There are some occasions where the humor works (double entendre abounds), and many others where it doesn’t, and The Message is hammered home in scenes such as that where Charly gets assaulted in a bar he enters, still in work clothes, to watch a football match when the other patrons mistake him for what he is pretending to be.

There is also undeniably an element of Nathan Lane and Robin Williams a la “The Birdcage” in the relationship between Mario and Flavio, alternately caressing and quibbling, ostensibly working careers in theatre that have afforded them the none-too-modest home in which they live. Legrand and Murray (a Mexican Kevin Spacey clone, if ever there was one) are solid-enough comedic actors with a pleasant banter throughout the film, and Bastidas the Younger gets off some clever one-liners here and there. Overall, not a bad effort for a film which attempts to address, in a lighthearted way, and it’s nice to see that the serious issue of homophobia in the Latino world is, perhaps, ready to be treated (dare I say?) more gaily.

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