Leather Jacket Love Story

Leather Jacket Love Story ★★★★½

2021 Queer Film Challenge #33: A film directed by David DeCoteau.

"I thought I felt someone's eyes burning another hole in my ass when I walked in here."

"Just by my standing up and reading my love poems to Julian is enough to make the heterosexist American running dogs tremble in their storm-trooping boots!"

"I don't like to mix my drugs."

"You sound like Nancy Reagan!"

What a delight! Lovingly satirical, shamelessly horny, endlessly quotable and often laugh-out-loud funny, Leather Jacket Love Story brings DeCoteau's microbudget lens to the gay scene of late 90s LA, where leather bikers, artsy twinks, drag queens and trans women all share the same spaces. In one scene, our aspiring-bohemian protagonist Kyle goes to a poetry reading and watches an aging sophisticate who sounds like Hans Conried read an elaborate poem about buttholes. Later he goes to a leather bar, and within five minutes of his arrival a guy in a harness is telling him about how he got a grant to photograph his dick at different times of day — "you know, like that French guy did in paintings of haystacks." The very real challenges of life in the Second Gay 90s aren't ignored, but nothing ever turns out too badly; when Kyle is cornered by a group of violent homophobes, three trans women he knows from the café show up and beat the crap out of them. And then of course there's the central romance, which is handled with great subtlety right up until the improbable cheeseball ending. OK, I guess setting an intense sex scene to cheerful mid-century light orchestral music à la Laurie Johnson doesn't really count as subtle, but DeCoteau also pays close attention to how his characters negotiate their sometimes conflicting desires. It would be easy to stick with the obvious power dynamic (biker Riker becomes young pretty boy's first top awwww) but reality is sometimes more complicated than that, and that's reflected here as well. Leather Jacket Love Story would make a nice double feature with Go Fish, another low-budget black-and-white film from the 90s but focusing on lesbians rather than gay men. There's something really special about this era of independent queer cinema and its apparent total indifference to the straight gaze.