‘Four’ lacks authenticity

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Four, the full-length feature film debut by writer/director Joshua Sanchez, is an adaptation of award-winning gay playwright Christopher Shinn’s first play. An intimate portrait of four characters’ lives intersecting on the fourth of July, the film features solid performances, but the film as a whole comes off as self-conscious.

The story begins with restless gay teen June (Emory Cohen) arranging online to hook up with a bisexual, African-American married man named Joe (Wendell Pierce). They meet near a payphone (remember those?) and drive off in Joe’s BMW convertible. June, an only son, is reserved and admits to not being out to his parents. Joe, who is outgoing and fatherly, appears to be genuinely interested in the boy, although his interest could be sexually motivated.

Across town, Joe’s obedient and responsible daughter Abigayle (Aja Naomi King) is at home taking care of her sick mother. Abigayle believes Joe is out of town at a work-related conference. Abigayle and Dexter (E.J. Bonilla), an athletic classmate with bad grades and a police record, meet at a nearby basketball court.

Both couples end up having sex, but instead of making them more comfortable with each other, it has the opposite effect. Everything comes to a head in a diner parking lot, where Abigayle spies her father getting into his car with June in the passenger seat.

In Four, issues of race, class and sexuality collide with the characters’ desires for an authentic life. But Four itself feels inauthentic and stagey.

DVD bonus features include commentary by Sanchez and Cohen, as well as a behind-the-scenes featurette.

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