by Dennis Harvey

One annoying thing about most recent mid-scale gay seriocomedies ("Jeffrey," "Love! Valour! Compassion!," "It's My Party") has been their taking-for granted of a white, gym-buffed, yuppified urban male "A-list" as being the center of the known gay universe. If nothing else, "All the Rage" is refreshing for the critical (though not mean-spirited) scrutiny it turns on this milieu. Though perhaps overburdened by its very serious wrap-up, savvy comedy should stir respectable biz -- and perhaps some controversy -- among gay urban auds.

Protag Christopher (John-Michael Lander) is the very model of a '90s "guppie": He's young (about 30), gorgeous, has a high-powered white-collar job and moves in a social world of similarly privileged gay Bostonians. He's also a status- and looks-obsessed egomaniac who plays nice, then delivers casual, stinging brush-offs to his innumerable one-night stands. "I want a boyfriend!" he whines to best friend Larry (Jay Corcoran). But such a perfect "10" can seemingly only accept another as his mate -- and the elusive partner may exist only in the mirror.

So Christopher is nonplused when he finds himself fixated on a seeming rejection by dinner-party acquaintance Stewart (David Vincent). In truth, Stewart was just too shy, and too unjaded, to push mutual attraction to its horizontal limit at first sight. Cute but a bit nebishy, with a low-paying book editor position and some actual body fat, Stewart is not at all what Christopher thinks he wants. But former's inadvertent hard-to-get game grabs the latter, who is used to being pursued.

Their romance sustains long enough to warm up ChristopherÕs usually freeze-dried emotions -- then longer still. As the initial glow wears off, protag's old short-attention-span ways resurface. Unfortunately, Stewart's flatmate is the same chiseled hunk Christopher had been lusting for at the gym for months. When temptation gets out of hand, the consequences are immediate, and dire.

Tyro stage-to-feature-film helmer Roland Tec (drawing on his play "A Better Boy") enhances this central tale with several subplots, each reflecting the difficulties of finding and keeping relationships. Christopher's workmate and bar-cruising companion Larry resents his newfound domesticity; his female pal Susan (Merle Perkins) finds little luck in the hetero singles scene; gay couple Tom and Dave (Peter Bubriski, Paul Outlaw) are fighting cool-off in their own long-term partnership. While dialogue could be wittier, Tec's screenplay cleverly advances through the humorous progression of scenes that ring variations on the same settings. A less successful device is having Christopher reveal his own (shallow) thoughts to the camera, as if he were keeping a video diary.

Once Christopher is stricken by the realization he's probably blown it with Stewart, we expect he'll be humbled enough to allow a happy ending. But pic pulls a last act that's surprisingly bleak, even briefly frightening, as one last bar pickup turns tables to give hero a cruel, apt appraisal of latter's soul. This wrap is striking yet perhaps more heavy-handed than necessary.

Perfs and pacing are sharp, tech package high-grade on limited means, with Boston-area lensing taking on a suitably glossy, sterile look.

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