Lukas Gage & Zachary Quinto Be Gay & Do Crime
Mar 12, 2023
When the internet said “be gay and do crime,” Lukas Gage and Zachary Quinto were clearly listening. Down Low is an ambitious journey through sex work, repressed sexuality, accidental murder, the fragility of life, and an oddly tender exploration of the age-old question: can you still be a good person if you do bad things?
Gary (Quinto) is a recently divorced and freshly out gay man who is finally ready to take the bull by the horns and live his truth while he still can. But his quiet deconstruction of his repressed sexuality is quickly shattered like a Faberge egg when he hires Cameron (Gage) to give him a happy ending. Cameron is out, proud, and very loud about it, which proves the perfect foil to Gary’s straight-laced fears of breaking the mold he poured himself into as a married Catholic family man. Together, the unlikely duo forges a connection that—unintentionally—destroys a number of lives in the process. Literally. Somehow, Down Low manages to turn accidental manslaughter into a comedy of errors and necrophilia into a very amusing comedic beat.
In addition to starring in the raunchy romp, Gage also penned the script with Phoebe Fisher, which is filled to the brim with innuendo, pop culture reference, and enough unabashed gayness to make the old gizzards in Congress keel over. This is not your mother’s rom-com, and that’s okay. It takes components of classic hetero romances—many of which are directly referenced by its leads—and flips them on their heads. Even Cameron, by design, is essentially the film’s Manic Pixie Dream…Twink. His pure-of-heart, dumb-of-ass persona is the perfect balm to fix the broken pieces of Gary. Maybe this is what Bros could’ve been if it hadn’t been trying so hard.
Down Low may be tonally messy at points, but its sincerity and heart make its weakness forgivable. Especially when you take into account how much fun the cast appears to be having. The film features a rather small cast outside Quinto and Gage, with Sebastian Arroyo as an Andrew Tate-looking down-low hook-up-gone-wrong, Judith Light as Gary’s nosey busybody crazy neighbor who so badly wants to be an ally, at least when she’s on Ambien, Simon Rex as a drugged-up man of chaos looking for his very own flesh puppet, and Audra McDonald as Gary’s long-suffering estranged ex-wife and mother of his two sons. These characters sound like a fever dream on paper, but on-screen it’s even more chaotic.
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For Rightor Doyle, this is an insanely ambitious debut feature. Even with its largely paired-down cast of characters, the film features a lot of moving parts which Doyle manages quite nicely. Especially for a film that dangles in the balance between a heartfelt romantic comedy and an outlandish farce that could give Molière a run for his money. At times, with its central location, Doyle’s staging felt slightly more like a play than a film, which was further compounded by Gage’s larger-than-life antics. It worked, even when it shouldn’t have, which is a commendable feat.
Where Down Low is lacking is in its visuals. The script and the performances attached to it, very much lean into the stylings of a screwball comedy, which is often accompanied by brighter, more lively aesthetics. Down Low opts for a somber color palette, which acts against its best attributes. As Gary alludes to within the film—this is one of the few times that he has ever truly felt alive. So why are the visuals so murky and drab? The camera work is smart, albeit predictable, and on more than one occasion it abandons a moment that is mounting to the peak of something far more fun visually. The best moments are where Down Low breaks free of this very repressive styling to embrace drug-induced dance parties and giggle-worthy dress-up montages. You know, the kind of stuff you look for in a rom-com.
The final act of the film is largely telegraphed throughout its middle through Gary’s gut-punching revelation to Cameron, but it still blindsides once it arrives. The absurdity of it all, unfortunately, cuts the emotional core to the quick. It wants you to feel what Cameron feels, but there’s no real catharsis in it. Though there is plenty of humor in Down Low’s last moments, from the Weekend at Bernie’s allusion and the neat “Creation of Adam” visual gag, the downbeat isn’t quite as poignant as it could’ve been.
The rush to get to the somber ending forces the film to lose some of the delightful momentum harnessed by the second act, leaving it to sink into an abyss of sadness. Down Low is at its best when Quinto and Gage are bouncing off each other’s wildly conflicting personalities and playing into the screwball of it all. If you set aside the story that plays out in the undercurrents of Down Low—the poignant, albeit heartbreaking story of self-discovery that comes almost too late—and focus on the outlandish, brash, and delightful hijinks audiences will certainly have a blast with this one.
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