24 Nights

Amateurish in both the positive and negative senses of the term, 24 Nights, the writing and directorial debut of NYU alumnus Kieran Turner, is a serio romantic comedy about a gay man who still believes in Santa Claus. Technically raw, the script shows some promise, but pic is so poorly staged and shot that it's not even strong enough a contender for the gay and lesbian film festivals. A throwback to what queer cinema used to be two decades ago, best chances for film to be seen is in second-tier and regional venues.

When Jonathan Parker was 4, his mother's fables and a chance encounter with a Salvation Army Kris Kringle instilled in him a lifelong belief in the myth of Santa Claus. After this brief pre-credits sequence, yarn jumps 20 years later and finds Jonathan (Kevin Isola) to be a spacey, pot-smoking college drop-out, working in a gay bookstore in the village where his campy peers are also his best friends. Still feeling the loss of his parents, who died in his childhood, he lives with his compassionate but assertive sister, Marie (Aida Turturro), and her none-too-bright husband, an underwear model. Very much a loner, Jonathan continues to write letters to Santa Claus.

Things change when a handsome guy, Tony (David Burtka), begins working in the bookstore. Jonathan is instantly smitten with Tony, convinced that the latter is the one sent by Santa for him. Complications abound, when it turns out that Tony lives with b.f. Keith (Stephen Mailer), a psychology major. Nonetheless, the long-time affair doesn't deter Jonathan, who unwillingly proceeds to influence–and wreck–the lives of all those around him in his single-minded pursuit of the fantasy man.

Boringly structured as a journal, with repetitive titles as “Thursday, December 5, 19 Shopping Days Until Christmas,” tale contains some intermittently funny interactions, but mostly fighting snags, traps and pitfalls, none too exciting to observe, until Christmas day arrives, and Jonathan finds his true love. Central comic idea is not bad, but the whole film feels like a student thesis, not ready yet for public showings. Kieran, who's also the producer, doesn't command any technical skills; his camera is often in the wrong place.

Ensemble acting is modest but not terribly compelling. Isola, as the lead, renders a tedious, charmless performance, but Turturro, as his loving sister, and vet stage actress Mary Louise Wilson, as a sharply acerbic aunt, bring some edge to the otherwise insipid effort.

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