'You Can't Stay Here' - Fans of Indie Gay Cinema Deserve Better

"You Can't Stay Here" via IMDb.

Almost 30 years ago, young gay actor Guillermo Diaz turned in memorable performances in indie films such as “Party Girl” (starring Parker Posey) and especially the late, gay filmmaker Nigel Finch’s last movie “Stonewall” (from 1995). While he continued to work consistently, in gay and mainstream, independent and big budget features, and on TV, perhaps his most unforgettable role turned out to be Huck on the popular ABC series “Scandal” starring Kerry Washington.

Now, after more than 10 years and numerous roles (including in the movie adaptation of “The Normal Heart” and Billy Eichner’s “Bros.”), Diaz returns to his indie film roots in Todd Verow’s “You Can’t Stay Here” (Bangor Films). Determinedly ambitious, despite its low budget, “You Can’t Stay Here,” unfortunately becomes a self-conscious muddle, although Diaz does his damnedest to keep us engaged.

Said to be based on actual events, “You Can’t Stay Here” is set in NYC in 1993. Rick (Diaz), a gay photographer, spends his days in Central Park observing and photographing the gay men who cruise the park. He mainly records the sexual activity he witnesses, while choosing not to take part, even though he is cruised by Tony (J.J. Bozeman), Hale (trans actor Becca Blackwell), and a nameless black muscleman (Boy Radio). He is also pursued by poppers-sniffing Adam (Justin Ivan Brown), a man in a kind of trench coat, who may (or may not) be a vampire.

The time period in which the movie is set is also fraught with complications. Police were constantly arresting gay men they found having sex in the park. The AIDS virus was claiming the lives of countless gay men, and it wasn’t unusual to see the kind of hateful graffiti – Got AIDS Yet? – that Rick sees on the wall of a cruisy public bathroom in the park.

Additionally, Rick’s personal life was coming apart at the seams. His relationship with his soap opera actress wife Samantha (Karina Arroyave), who is also the mother of his young son, can’t hold up under the strain of Rick’s queerness. His horrible boss Wren (Vanessa Aspillaga, who has the best line in the whole movie when she refers to the 1978 Faye Dunaway dud “The Eyes of Laura Mars”), an old college friend, is borderline abusive. Worst of all is Rick’s dismal relationship with his homophobic mother Angela (Marlene Forte), who is dying and has a history of going through home-healthcare workers like water.

Everything combines into a series of nightmares, imagined acts of violence, and an attempt to comment on gay life in the early 1990s. But too much of what is taking place is just confusing. Diaz, as well as fans of indie gay cinema, deserve better than this.

Rating: D+

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