by Renee Graham
Smart, gently barbed look at gay narcissist

Christopher is a catch.

A successful attorney, he lives in a fabulous apartment that is more modern-furniture museum than domicile. He's a regular at the Metropolitan Health Club, pumping his pecs and his profile in the neighborhood. With his gleaming smile and juicy biceps, he's all the way A-list, such an object of incessant desire that he keeps not a black book but a black box of his sexual conquests. To each he offers the classic throwaway line -- "Hey, I'll call you."

Of course, he never does. Christopher is a catch who won't be caught.

Roland Tec's smart, provocative film, "All the Rage" is set in Boston's boy-beautiful South End, but its story could easily unfold in any gay ghetto -- Miami's South Beach, San Francisco's Castro District, or New York's Chelsea. It is a seriocomic look at a specific gay male type -- the too-handsome-for-his-own-good charmer who doles out his affections in measured portions, but can never quite commit. HeÕs not a bad person, but like so many others, he can't see past his own pretty face. With such a man, what you see is what you get, you just won't get it for long.

John-Michael Lander plays Christopher as an easygoing young man who has wanted for little in his life. He has a network of devoted friends like longtime couple Tom and Dave (Peter Bubriski and Paul Outlaw) who are intent on getting Christopher to settle down. He seems to prefer cruising the bars and street corners for casual sex until he meets Stewart (an earthy, accessible David Vincent).

Stewart is a welcome addition to the gay film canon. He's attractive, but not gorgeous, and though he's a little chubby, he has no desire to join a gym. Perhaps it's that contrary nature that first attracts Christopher -- this, and the fact that Stewart does not sleep with him straight away.

Their burgeoning relationship isn't welcomed by all, especially ChristopherÕs friend and co-worker Larry (Jay Corcoran), who can't understand why any red-blooded gay man would want to give up poppers and dimly-lit underwear parties for a mundane domestic life. But ChristopherÕs fidelity will be surely tested by StewartÕs hunky and flirty roommate Kenny (Alan Natale).

The screenplay, based on Tec's play, "A Better Boy," is gently barbed and refreshingly unpredictable. Yet Tec can't always avoid moments of preachiness -- none more so than the film's shattering payback-is-a-bitch conclusion. It's such an unexpected shot it practically kicks the film off its axis. Still, revenge is so sweet -- and so real for anyone who has ever been used and left for dead after a one-night stand -- you can almost forgive the aftertaste.

But Tec is trying to make an important point, and, mostly, he succeeds. If nothing else, he deserves credit for taking precise aim at that most precious gay image -- the buff, beautiful man -- and deflates his sculpted pecs just a little bit.

[Globe rating: three stars]

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