TWO MEN. A SMALL TOWN. A LOVE THAT ISN’T QUITE OUT OF REACH. Those words were the tagline of Yen Tan’s feature film Pit Stop. The film told a parallel story of two blue-collar gay men in small town in Texas. One is Gabe (Bill Heck) who still live with his ex-wife, Shannon, and their daughter, Cindy, after his love affair with a married man took a disastrous end. The other is Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda) whose stoic appearance hid his soft heart that made him care for his comatose past love and let a live-in ex-boyfriend, Luis, walk all over him and live in his house like a parasites. Both of them stuck in a rut, between recovering from past love and before moving on towards new possibilities. When the two met at the end, perhaps aided by random search for a one-night hook-up app, a new beginning opens up. They just might meant for each other.
What subtly beautiful about Pit Stop is the study of both the lead characters. Taking similar approach to Haigh’s Weekend, the two character appeared like your everyday guy, not taking stereotypical gay male usually portrayed in films. The approach is realistic and grounded, not overly dramatized or cloyed with melancholy. Both man are blue collar worker in the small town, they crossed paths every once in a while at a pit stop, while they’re filling their gas tank or just buying snacks or sodas. The two are showing a strong emotionally charged performance in their own regards. Gabe subtle frustration towards his boyfriend or when he sang outloud to express his feelings gave a nuance to his character. My favorite however goes to Ernesto, who struggle to contain his conflicted emotion when he deal with his ex-boyfriends, trying to be selfish for himself, and yet his heart is still constrained by the people he cared for. Both are getting over their loss of loved ones and trying to move on in their own while trying to have a semblance of peace of mind.
The two lead performers are supported by an ensemble of actors that are moderately good with few stood out and one let down. But it did not distract too much with the whole feeling of the films. What i’m struggling with is the almost constant dark pictures with only slivers of lights revealing the emotion etched to the characters face. I don’t know if it’s trying to evoke the parallel to the gay men portrayed in the film where they’re subtly hidden and blend in almost too seamlessly with the other small town population. But actually the fact that they do not look different sort of made the film wonderful. Just like when you saw how similar the dates Gabe had compared with the one his ex-wife was having. I think it normalized what most might view as an abnormal relationship (a word i’m so reluctant to use).
Pit Stop really crept on me. In a sense that this is the movie that just did not offer a lot of explanation from the beginning making me think the first half had some major flaws in the narratives, instead it invites the viewer to be the voyeur of the two characters’ lives. We constantly saw their emotional struggle and we grew more sympathetic within each passing minutes, before we finally reached that ‘ah!’, big-reveal moment in the film where everything clicked together like a puzzle and finally you are able to see the big picture. I would not mind seeing a little more at the end, but i guess even without that the movie is wonderful. Quietly brilliant and emotionally raw, Pit Stop is definitely a must watch.
PIT STOP (2013)
GENRE Drama, LGBT
DIRECTOR Yen Tan | PRODUCER Jonathan Duffy, James M. Johnston, Eric Steele, Kelly Williams | WRITER Yen Tan, David Lowery | MUSIC Curtis Heath | CINEMATOGRAPHER HutcH | EDITOR Don Swaynos | DISTRIBUTOR Wolfe Video | COUNTRY United States | RUNNING TIME 80 minutes | RELEASE January 21, 2013
STARRING Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda, Amy Seimetz, Alfredo Maduro