DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEW of Edge of 17. Nico and Dani, L.I.E., Issues 101


Title: Edge of 17  (Edge of Seventeen)

Release Date: 1999

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: about 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating:  n/a (suggest “R”)

Distributor and Production Company: Strand Releasing

Director; Writer:David Moreton


Cast:  Chris Stafford, Andersen Gabrych


Relevance to doaskdotell site:


Movie Review: Edge of 17  

(Edge of Seventeen); Strand Releasing (1999); Directed by David Moreton; Starring: Chris Stafford, Andersen Gabrych; 100 Minutes        For me, this is one of the most erotic "serious" (non-porno) gay male films ever made. It portrays the "coming out" and entry into manhood of a very nimble and likeable 17-year-old, Eric (Chris Stafford), oldest son in a working-class Sandusky, Ohio family. When he starts a summer job in a fast-food place on Crystal Beach Park on Lake Erie, he meets an extroverted college student, Rob (Andersen Gabrych), from Ohio State, a bit wiser to the ways of the "gay world." Gradually, Rob seduces him, at a pace that keeps real sexual tension (up to the point of Eric's "surrender" – he giggles as Rob unbuttons and explores him) in the script for the first half of the movie. Then, Eric has to deal his own identity, not just gay or straight, but assertive or yielding. He confirms his homosexuality by proving a negative: he is unable to "make it" with a girl friend, whom he really "loves," later on. Although sexually he seems "yielding" (in the Rosenfels sense) his behavior seems a bit of a masculine masquerade. His mother comments, "people will think you're gay" (my own mother had once used the word "peculiar") when he returns home after all-nighters with orange hair and tight-fitting, sleek, refective blue body suits. But, however punk, Eric seems as masculine as anyone could be, rather like a brightly plumaged male bird, desperate to make others love him. Is he obsessive, or is he compulsive, when he calls Rob long-distance to make him jealous after making it with another trick?  He will soon learn the unpredictable and on-off nature of some gay relationships, even if Rob eventually comes back.

            The movie does play on erotic undertones. Early in the film, Eric and Rob engage in harmless horseplay on a sofa, their super-hairy thighs grating. The mood is really one of hyper masculinity, even when women and girl friends are present. Later, in the "Seduction Scene," Eric displays a narcissistic fascination with Rob's chest hair, something Eric is too young to have much of yet for himself (it increases during the rest of the movie). David Skinner of The Weekly Standard becomes refuted! And I didn't know that college dorms these days (let alone fraternity houses) were turning into weekend sex clubs, where innocent roommates slept unawares.

            Eric's behavior does seem silly at times, but I had my own crushes when I was that age, but more of the platonic variety. I was not allowed to act upon them. He is pretty responsible about the serious stuff: the only drug he uses is poppers, which have gone out of use since the AIDS crisis (and by the way, reader, poppers can cause cardiac arrest in persons with undiagnosed hearth arrhythmias). AIDS is mentioned once (since the setting is Reagan-centered 1984), in a sign, and no, Rob didn't use a condom. There is also social commentary: Eric's stay-at-home mother takes a job so Eric can apply to NYU, when he really just wants to make Rob jealous. Ohio State will do just fine for his music studies. By the way, Eric does display some of his composition talents at times; the music sounds like William Bent's "Sirius Lullaby" (1984).

            As with many independent films, all the outdoor scenes seem to be on location. I spent my boyhood summers about 20 miles from Sandusky (in the Kipton-Oberlin area) and the scenes look real for 1984. I don't know whether Sandusky had a gay bar in 1984; the 1999 Gay Yellowpages shows one. Sounds like Eric would have had to drive to Cleveland to do much exploring, and the Ohio Turnpike is a bit expensive.

            One other point: in some states, Rob could have gone to jail for his "conquest" of Eric. The age of consent is as old as 18 in a few states. In Ohio, it is normally 16. (In New York, where there is a later scene between Eric and Rod in the NYU dorm, it is 17. For child pornography, the federal cutoff is 18, but that that seems to apply only to showing “explicit” sex.) But that's a good pretext for a movie: an older man falls in love with a teenager, not knowing the teenager is under age (maybe the teen "looks" older and lies). Good pretext for another independent film? Should everyone check ID's?

Nico and Dani, from Avatar Films and Studio Canal (2001), is another teenage coming out comedy, this time from Spain, filmed on the sunny Costa del Sol. Nico (Jordi Vilches) seems like a typical teen wanting to prove he can make it with women, where as the more articulate blond and beefcaked Dani (Fernando Ramallo) already sees their friendship as something romantic. Dani, the “gay” character comes across as the more “powerful”, cunning and charismatic of the two, although sometimes he ventures into prevarication. Maybe this is NC-17, or just under the wire for R, but it is definitely a worthwhile film for older teens.  The Spanish in this film is so clear with English cognates that one hardly needs the titles (it sounded more Catalan or French to me, but I’m not sure about all of the dialects in Spain—there were Basque credits in the titles—and I was just in Bilbao recently myself).  At one point, Nico says they can do whatever they want because they are still minors at 17—but the chart shows 13 to be the age of consent in Spain! There have been legal concerns recently about the depiction of “implied” underage sex in films and art in the U.S., even when the actors are over 18.  We could compare this film to Chuck & Buck, but here the “gayer” character is much less juvenile. We could also recall Gordon Merrick’s mid 70s novel The Lord Won’t Mind.

(Later Note: 8/31/2001 :  Here is a good reference on the Child Pornography Prevention Act:  It would appear from this analysis that an affirmative defense is provided if the speaker or distributor does not advertise the material as portraying sex by minors and if real adult actors are used.  However, Jerry Hall of Tate & Bywater raises troubling questions about state jurisdiction at

L.I.E., from New Yorker and Lot47, directed by Michael Cuesta, provides a case for a legitimate MPAA rating “A” for adult films that does not drive away distributors and exhibitors (as does NC-17 today, which people somehow equate with pornography). The story starts out with 15-year old Howie Blitzer (a young-looking Paul Dano) contemplating suicide over the Long Island Expressway.  He seems just too young for his world with high school kids; his voice has barely started changing, and perhaps he has never shaved. His mother has died in an auto accident The story unfolds with his troubled relationship with his crooked father (Marty Altman), on his way to jail for fraud [using aluminum wiring, an interesting cheat, since a lot of early 1970s condo conversions had aluminum] in his building contracting business, and search for a substitute “Daddy” a sixtyish Jon Harrigan (Brian Cox), after “Big Jon” catches him (with other kids) burglarizing and trashing his house.  Jon is a bit repulsive physically, with a pot belly and tattooed, hairless body (he makes a lot of his Marine Corps veteran background, a realistic if not welcome view of gays in the military). The scenes of physical intimacy between the youth and older man are quite startling, even if not explicitly sexual (though the language sometimes is very explicit as the older man refers to his skill at fellatio).  This is a movie on affections bordering on pedophilia, although there will be some who justify it. While “Big Jon” at first seems to be looking for a sexual score, his relationship with Howie deepens into something almost like parenthood. (In a deleted scene, Jon rebukes a waiter who asks if Howie is his son.) Jon has other young men living at the house for “sugar daddy” support, and one of them (who had said, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” to which Jon answered “I am”) extracts revenge at the end with a stolen pistol.   Again, the legal concerns noted above might apply.  (2005: it appears that the concerns apply only when explicit sexual activity is shown.)

I saw this at a special screening the night of Sept. 11, 2001 at the Landmark Lagoon in Minneapolis, when I met Michael afterwards. We did not cancel. The DVD commentary mentions the film as “pre 9-11”, as having been much less communitarian than now; there is one shot of the Twin Towers in the original film that seems to have been deleted from the DVD.  

Issues 101, from Triangle Pillar Group, directed by John Lincoln III, NC-17, 90 min, (2003) presents the problem of “unit cohesion” within a college fraternity when one of the members (or more than one, actually) is gay and outs himself gradually. It gets pretty contagious, although some of the pledges worry that they won’t get “chicks” if they belong to a gay-friendly fraternity. Of course, they use Navy-like homosexual hazing rituals that are supposed to be OK if you’re really straight, but pretty soon some of the guys “get it”—although the scenes are rather tame. The soundtrack features songs by Rudy Matthews (“Frat Brat”) that seem to have become familiar fare in mainstream music circles.


Related reviews: The Deep End, Chuck & Buck


Return to doaskdotell movies (reviews)

Return to doaskdotell movies, books, plays (strike page)

Return to doaskdotell home page


Email me at