Sep 12, 2012

Antonio Banderas in Love

The White River Kid (1999) was advertised with lots of beefcake shots of Wes Bentley, who played the goofy spree killer.

But it also contained a gay romance.  Two amiable con artists visit the Weed family of rural Arkansas, and Morales (Antonio Banderas) takes up with the teenage hayseed Reggie (Chad Lindberg).

Soon the two are inseparable – sitting together at dinner, talking walks together, plotting cons together – and effusive, with arms around waists, a kiss on the forehead, a lascivious hand on the knee.

They even visit a bathhouse, where Reggie lustfully peeks inside the private rooms, and Morales gets a chance to ogle Reggie’s nude butt. But they do not merely desire each other, they develop a deep emotional intimacy. When the gangsters begin shooting, Morales tries to shield Reggie with his own body.

Finally they abandon rural Arkansas and go away together – Morales exclaims, “It’s just you and me now!”  In the last scene, we see them working a con in Las Vegas.  Reggie is stylishly dressed, with an effeminate pinkie ring. Obviously several years have passed, and they are still together, a long-term gay couple.

In the original novel, The Little Brothers of St. Mortimer (1991), author John Fergus Ryan identifies the pair more openly than the movie – he explicitly states that Reggie is gay, and that Morales has tried everything during his long career as a grifter, but prefers men.  However, in the novel they are minor characters, meeting, enjoying a night of passion, and running away together all in a single paragraph, then disappearing from the story.

Why did the movie emphasize the gay romance, when usually the opposite happens?  Antonio Banderas has played gay characters several times (and favored audiences with many nude scenes).  Chad Lindberg, who generally plays losers and outcasts, is bisexual (according to his myspace page).  Maybe they worked together to ensure that their characters' voices were heard.

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