“In addition to fine acting, The New Twenty benefits from David Tumblety’s excellent cinematography. He uses color to expressive advantage and turns routine skyline footage (not another shot of a rooftop water tower!) into a vibrant cityscape. Ballads and incidental music add another pleasant layer without taking attention away from the characters. Johnson and co-writer Ishmael Chawla (his fellow Amherst College grad, as is producer Aina Abiodun) shine in a concise barroom scene during which Ben drunkenly holds forth on the nature of human suffering to an older gentleman (Larry Pine in a superb cameo), who sympathizes before gallantly asking, “Now, would you like a blow job from an old cowboy?”
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“Johnson does an admirable job of developing his characters and having them grow over the course of the film. As they talk about selling out or slacking off, being self-absorbed or self-loathing, they come across as real people, not caricatures.”
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GAY CITY NEWS
Bill Sage and Andrew Wei Lin
Village Voice Review
Tuesday, March 17th 2009 at 2:34pm
In his sleek and accomplished debut film, writer-director Chris Mason Johnson tracks the lives and loves of a cadre of 29-year-old Manhattan college friends who betray themselves and each other by abusing the Big Three—sex, money, and drugs. At the center is Andrew (Ryan Locke), a lean, blond alpha-dog investment banker whose beautiful Asian fiancée (Nicole Bilderback) may be his match in the world of business. Among those circling this golden couple are Ben (Colin Fickes), who’s gay, overweight, and addicted to online sex sites (there’s a great moment when a trick comes over to Ben’s apartment and the two men reject each other on sight), as well as the drug-addicted Felix (Thomas Sadoski) and commitment-phobic Tony (Andrew Wei Lin). We have been here many times before (see 1966’s The Group), but Johnson and co-writer Ishmael Chawla have a light touch that keeps things from turning overly melodramatic. (No vases get thrown.) Supported by veteran New York actors such as Terry Serpico and Bill Sage, the strong ensemble of young actors create fully defined personas, thanks in large part to their director’s willingness to linger after a dramatic peak and observe the characters in private, take-a-breath moments. He’s got something, this guy, and I’d hate to see a movie this ethnically and sexually diverse fade away on today’s dead-end gay release circuit. After all, for better or worse, every generation deserves its own St. Elmo’s Fire.
From Time Out New York
Chris Mason Johnson’s ensemble drama could’ve been just another earnest time capsule about friends in their late twenties; what saves it from devolving into mere mumblecore is a broader-than-average outlook. Life trajectories send the quintet in disparate directions, among them Ben (Fickes), who takes to his couch with a bottle of Lubriderm, and Andrew (Locke), who’s in an equally wankworthy situation at Morgan Stanley. Unlike this genre’s usual shtick, the film includes something rarely seen onscreen: close friendships between gay and straight men. And though the camera may be overly fond of pore-counting close-ups, cinematographer David Tumblety is smart enough to draw it back and show the bigger picture, too, with twinkly sunsets over East Village water towers.
Author: Anna King
Time Out New York Issue 703: March 19-25, 2009