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film review

Geography Club follows a group of LGBTQ support group.

The Hollywood feature film industry used to treat homosexuality (and the LGBTQ spectrum in general) mostly, it seemed, for its sensationalistic, melancholic or broadly humorous possibilities. Think Cruising, Maurice, Mambo Italiano. Geography Club's motivation, however, is to present the love that once dared not speak its name as just one more normative behaviour. As a manifesto for tolerance and a contribution to greater social and gender harmony, this is an exercise all to the good. As a film, however, it's something of a snooze.

Loosely based on Brent Hartinger's best-selling 2003 young adult novel of the same name, Geography Club centres on the frustrations, predicaments and triumphs of Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart), at 17 a blandly handsome, virginal sophomore at Goodkind High School in Anywhere, U.S.A. who is wrestling with his gay identity. Isolated, lonely, pressed by his father to aspire to admission to Yale, Russell yearns for the human touch. Reaching out on (what else?) the Internet, he eventually connects with Kevin (Justin Deeley), the equally blandly handsome quarterback of Goodkind's football squad. During an overnight science field trip, they're caught smooching in the rain by fellow student Min (Ally Maki). Later, Min slips a note to Russell, asking to meet with him. "Is she blackmailing us?" wonders Kevin.

Luckily (for them but not the viewer), she harbours no such intention. In fact, she's a lesbian, a founding member no less of the Geography Club, the Friends-of-Dorothy-style cover name for Goodkind's secret, pitifully small LGBTQ support group. Russell, who, thanks to Kevin's intercession, becomes something of a football star himself, eventually makes common cause with the club and sparks the effort to take both himself and club out of the closet into the potentially harsh light of heterosexual teen oppobrium. Kevin, however, wants nothing to do with this. While he "really likes" Russell, he "doesn't want to be gay;" he just wants to play football, stay concealed and "be normal."

With Michael Huffington, the gay ex-husband of Arianna Huffington, as their producer, first-time feature director Entin and his screenwriter brother Edmund handle Geography Club's 73 minutes of travails and twists with a sensitive light touch. It's the sort of film that could easily find its way into, say, a Grade 9 sex education class at a sufficiently chill, gay-positive school. Unfortunately, it's too sensitive, antiseptic even, to be engaging dramatically, its characters and circumstances more sketched than painted. Young love is supposed to be messy, intense, angst-ridden, confusing, physical. Geography Club's emotional juices, however, are condom'd by good intentions. It seeks an involvement it doesn't do enough to earn.