December 20, 2012 at 9:16 am EST | by Brian T. Carney
Silver bells, silver screen
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables, gay news, Washington Blade

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in the film adaptation of ‘Les Miserables.’

LGBT filmgoers have some interesting mainstream and independent movie choices coming up this holiday season.

Already in theaters (D.C.’s Landmark E Street Cinema among them) is “Any Day Now” starring Alan Cumming and Garret Dillahunt. Set in Los Angeles in 1979, it tells the story of an unconventional family battling internalized and institutional homophobia as an unlikely gay couple tries to adopt a special needs child.

Cumming plays Rudy Donatello, a flamboyant drag queen who yearns to stop lip-synching and perform his own cabaret act. Dillahunt plays Paul Flieger, a shy fan who finally gathers up the nerve to approach the performer after a show. Paul’s a straight-laced closeted assistant district attorney, so the two clearly have some challenges in making their relationship work.

Rudy lives down the hall from a prostitute who has a 14-year-old son, Marco, with Down syndrome. When she’s arrested on drug possession charges, Rudy impulsively and reluctantly decides to care for Marco. Soon, Paul, Rudy and Marco are living together in Rudy’s cramped apartment, although the two men initially pretend to be cousins to avoid public scrutiny. Trouble ensues when the couple decides to adopt Marco and take on a hostile bureaucracy that doesn’t consider gay men appropriate guardians and that routinely places special needs children in institutions.

Rebels of a different sort are on-screen in Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat novel, “On the Road.” Like the novel, the movie is a thinly veiled recreation of the famous cross-country road trip taken by Kerouac with his friend Neal Cassady and Cassady’s girlfriend LuAnne Henderson. Sam Riley plays Kerouac’s alter ego Sal Paradise and Garrett Hedlund plays the charismatic Dean Moriarty (based on Cassady). Kristen Stewart appears as Moriarty’s girlfriend Marylou and Viggo Mortenson and Tom Sturridge are featured as characters based on William S. Burroughs (author of “Naked Lunch”) and Allen Ginsburg (the openly gay poet who wrote “Howl”).

Reunited with screenwriter Jose Rivera (the two worked together on “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a road movie inspired by the life of Che Guevara), Salles unflinchingly recreates the artistic, philosophical and sexual awakening of Paradise. The film combines a celebration of the Beat writers and the women and gay men who were part of their world along with an understanding of the misogyny and homophobia that ultimately underscored much of their work. The movie includes explicit sex scenes but the focus remains on the sexual liberties taken by the straight white writers.

“On the Road” opens in limited release Dec. 21 and is expected in D.C. theaters in January.

A very different road trip is the subject of “The Guilt Trip,” a holiday release starring the unlikely comic team of gay icon Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. Currently in wide release, the movie is based on a real-life from suburban New Jersey-to-Las Vegas trip taken by screenwriter Dan Fogelman (“Tangled” and “Cars”) and his mother.

In the movie, Rogen plays Andy Brewster, an inventor travelling across the country to sell his newest product. Streisand, in her first lead movie role since “The Mirror Has Two Faces” (1996), plays his pushy mother Joyce, who decides to join her reluctant son on his travels. Along the way, mother and son rebuild their strained relationship and Joyce is reunited with a lost love.

It opened this week in wide release.

The blockbuster release of the 2012 holiday season is the much-anticipated “Les Misérables,” the musical adaptation of the classic Victor Hugo novel about a popular uprising against an oppressive regime (the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris) and the transcendent power of love. Directed by Tom Hooper, the musical extravaganza stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, who serves a brutal 19-year prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister’s starving children. Breaking parole and living under an assumed name, Valjean is relentlessly pursued by the ruthless Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).

The all-star ensemble cast features Anne Hathaway as Fantine, the doomed factory worker; Amanda Seyfried as Cosette, Fantine’s beautiful illegitimate daughter who is raised by Jean Valjean; Eddie Redmayne as Marius, the student who falls instantly in love with Cosette; and Samantha Banks as Éponine, the wily gamine who pines with unrequited love for Marius. The principal cast is rounded out by Aaron Tveit as the leader of the student revolutionaries; Colm Wilkinson (who originated the role of Jean Valjean in London and New York) as the kindly Bishop of Digne; and, Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers, comic denizens of the Parisian underworld.

“Les Miz” makes movie musical history by being the first film musical to be recorded live on the set (performers usually lip-synch to tracks previously laid down in a recording studio). The movie adaptation will also include a new song written specifically for leading man Hugh Jackman. The authors of the English stage musical (Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer), working with screenwriter William Nicholson, wrote the song “Suddenly” for Jean Valjean to sing after he rescues Cosette from the Thénardiers. The new song clarifies the character’s emotional journey and will be eligible for Oscar consideration.

“Les Misérables” opens nationwide in wide release Tuesday.

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