Jun 8, 2022

Dramarama: On August 19, 1994, a Gay Kid in Escondido Didn't Come Out to His Friends


Hulu started Dramarama (2020) without my permission.  All I saw before it started was "It's 1984, and a group of nerds holds a party."  Presumably they start getting diced up by a Michael Myers clone.  But then I saw the first scene: a cute guy flexing in his underwear before a sexy picture of St. Sebastian.  Wait -- he's gay?  

There's also a "Game Over" poster behind him. Foreshadowing of the psycho-slashing to come?

Scene 1: The cute guy, Gene (Nick Pugliese), is interrupted by Mom, trying to convince him to go to church.  They mention the Rapture, so evangelical Protestant, and lighting candles, so Catholic.  The writers don't know which is which.   Plot dump: Rose's Going Away Party is this afternoon.

Scene 2: Establishing shots of Escondido, California, August 19, 1994.   We focus on a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Catholic), various snacks, and teenage Rose (I assume) vacuuming in a disheveled wedding gown -- Miss Havisham, the jilted bride from Great Expectations.  She answers the door to Alice in Wonderland.  A come-as-your-favorite-literary-character costume going-away party.  I wonder who will die first.

Next, in character: Oscar (Nico Greetham) as Sherlock Holmes,  and a vampire (Mina Harker from Dracula).  They want to know where Gene is.  "He's been acting flakey."

Cut to Gene in the car, putting on his makeup and practicing: "I have something to tell you."  The guy's coming out! But you never came out to straight friends in 1994.  They would run away screaming or ask "Are you the boy or the girl?" 

Scene 3: Gene arrives as Dr. Jekyll. Rose announces the theme: it's a favorite Victorian literary character murder mystery costume party.  Oscar wants to know why Gene has been avoiding him.  So, a boyfriend?  Alice wants to know if he's finished Franny and Zooey yet.  Salinger -- so they read 20th century lit too.

 A scream!  Rose is lying on the kitchen floor, a murder victim!  (10 to 1 she is really dead).  They have to follow literary clues to determine the murderer.  One involves Sissy Jupe from Hard Times.  Oscar and Gene wrestle, tickle, and almost kiss, while the girls look on, annoyed.  

Scene 4: 
Rose comes back to life to answer the door.  It's JD (Zak Henri), delivering pizzas.  Also literary -- he guesses that Rose is the mad woman in the attic, from Jane Eyre.  They invite him in. Doesn't he have work to do?  He's a bad boy, criticizing Dickens and musical theater, using bad language, raiding the parents' liquor chest.

Plus last week he went to a movie with Gene and the Vampire, without inviting the others! They bristle at this "betrayal."  College exposition: Rose will be studying acting at NYU, Alice (Claire) theater at Pepperdine, the Vampire (Ally) opera at Oberlin, Oscar film at UCLA, and Gene cartooning at a community college.  Bad boy JD dropped out.

They play a game where you describe someone with one perfect word.  JD names Gene as "clandestine": he's always hiding something.  JD obviously knows, and is inviting Gene to come out.  They're all drama club kids; they'll be fine with it.

Scene 5: JD has to get back to work.  Gene walks him out.  He invites Gene to another party later, held by his cousin Sammy, who "thinks you're cool."  How many potential boyfriends does this guy have?  This murder mystery is supposed to be a sleepover, but Gene agrees.  I'm getting the impression that there will be no psycho-slasher. 

Back at the party, Oscar gets all snippy at Gene for sneaking off to a movie with another guy.  They complain about JD being a bad boy, and try to console Gene for being stuck in Escondido while they're off to fabulous artistic careers. After all, they didn't become friends because of their artistic interests, but because they're all highly devout Christians (three Catholics and a Lutheran). This riles Gene, who isn't sure that he believes in God anymore.  Does this mean that they can't be friends?  Definitely no psycho-slasher.  

I'll stop the scene-by-scene there, since nothing else happens.  The friends have heart-to-hearts, argue, insult each other, discuss whether or not God hates gay people, pray for each other, and have more heart-to-hearts for the next hour.  All you need to know is:

1. Oscar takes his shirt off.

2. Lots of "dark secrets" are revealed.  Not really very dark.

3. Gene tries the lame "I have a friend who's gay" coming out tactic.  He doesn't go any farther, but they all sort of know anyway.

4. The erotic tension between Gene and Oscar is never resolved.

5. Gene mentions planning to go out with Sammy (JD's cousin) to see a movie about a "desert queen."  No doubt Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, about a troupe of drag queens and a trans woman on tour in the Australian Outback.  Why doesn't he just say it?

My grade:  I don't know.  I fell asleep. 


  1. The guys are cute but after watching the trailer the movie looks dull

    1. I kept waiting for a murder, or a home invasion, or at least a scene set at the second party.


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