Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Dear Pillow

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

DEAR PILLOW

6/10

USA 2004 : Bryan POYSER : 85 mins

listening in to 'Pillow' talk...Shot on DV, low-budget US indie Dear Pillow is the story of a puppy-fat, introverted, horny suburban teenager learning about sex – ostensibly Larry Clark-ish material, but debutant writer-director Poyser nimbly avoids anything explicit or remotely exploitative. Indeed, no actual sex takes place in the film – although the subject is constantly discussed and written about by 18-year-old Wes (Rusty Kelley) and his neighbour Dusty (a Jack Lemmonish Gary Chason), a fiftysomething writer who once directed porn films, but now makes his living from publications such as the racy (and fictional) ‘Dear Pillow’.

When Wes shows an interest in Dusty’s work, the older man helps him develop his own fictional scenarios – a valuable creative outlet for the teenager, whose cramped home-life with his macho, divorced dad (Cory Criswell: Nolte/Stoltz/Sarsgaard) is a source of ongoing discontent. Though gay, Dusty doesn’t ‘come on’ to Wes – indeed, he goads the youngster into a potential heterosexual affair with the vivacious, assertive Lorna (Vivian Vives). Complications ensue.

What emerges is an agreeably low-key, non-melodramatic combination of Boogie Nights (mixed-up lad finds new surrogate ‘family’ via the sex-business), Finding Forrester (established writer shows newcomer the ropes) and L.I.E. (older gay man platonically aids disaffected broken-home teen). But Poyser finds an intimate, warm tone all his own, plausibly dramatising Wes’s awkwardness and how it gradually breaks down under the benign guidance of Dusty and Lorna.

For an hour or so the film ambles quite nicely along as a series of observationally matter-of-fact character-based comedy-drama vignettes. But eventually Poyser (perhaps due to inexperience) feels the need to inject more in the way of plot, and it’s here that Dear Pillow loses focus – the muddled final act is by far the weakest section. Ironic that an intelligent film about sexual function and dysfunction should find such difficulty reaching climax.

14th September, 2004
(seen 19th August : UGC Edinburgh : press show – Edinburgh Film Festival)

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by Neil Young