In the interest of full disclosure, I met Wade Gasque through a mutual friend a few years ago. And when he reached out to me a short time later about the crowdfunding campaign for his film “Tiger Orange”, I made a small contribution. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when it began streaming on Netflix that I finally had the opportunity to watch the film.
Tiger Orange tells the story of two small-town brothers, both gay, who each made different decisions for their lives and have consequently led two different existences.
Mark Strano plays Chet, the responsible elder brother who stayed at home to help his father run the local hardware store and then took it over after he passed away.
In his indie feature film debut, Frankie Valenti (aka Johnny Hazzard to fans of his adult film work) proves to be a very natural and capable actor in his role as Todd, the flighty, unabashedly out and proud younger brother who flew the coop as soon as he could and never looked back – not even to attend his father’s funeral.
Their story is set in the present day with additional backstory told through a series of intermittent flashbacks to their childhood. Vincent Duvall is excellent as Chet and Todd’s intimidating father in these sequences – especially when he discovers a dirty magazine that hints at his sons’ proclivities (an awkward situation that informs how they each turned out the way they did). Ty Parker as Young Chet and Adrian Delcan as Young Todd are incredibly effective opposite Duvall.
The film itself begins some months after their father’s death when Todd returns home after his life in Los Angeles falls apart. He stays with Chet and agrees to help out at the hardware store. He does well by way of sales and interacting with the customers, but his more expressive and confrontational ways when it comes to matters of the gay clash greatly with the far more muted and assimilatory manner that Chet has chosen to survive in the small town they grew up in — where it’s okay to be gay as long as people either don’t know about it or it isn’t flaunted or expressed.
Such expression and confrontation land Todd in jail twice at two disparate points in the film. The first is an embarrassment to Chet – who not only has his reputation within the town to consider, but also his father’s legacy and the townspeople’s continued support of the hardware store.
Still, the two try to reconnect and find some common ground. Chet takes Todd on a camping trip while Todd encourages Chet to pursue an interest in a high school classmate named Brandon (played by Gregory Marcel in all his wonderful boy-next-door glory) who also recently returned to town.
But Todd screws up a dinner between him, Chet and Brandon – causing Chet to retreat from the possibility of a relationship with Brandon. An argument then ensues between Chet and Todd and Todd leaves. Later, while in bed, Chet receives a call that Todd has once again landed in jail and Chet once again bails him out (this occurrence eventually serves as a source of personal empowerment for Chet). The next morning, Chet tells Todd that he has to leave.
Todd disappears, which worries a regretful Chet. But on the day they agreed to spread their father’s ashes at a small pond he loved to go to, Todd unexpectedly shows up.
It is this pond scene where the heart of the film and the crux of the relationship between Todd and Chet is best exemplified: whereas Chet resented Todd for going off to do whatever he wanted, Todd resented Chet for getting to have that time with their father; whereas Todd was always who he was despite how his father felt about it, Chet strove for the acceptance from his father that he was never going to get despite going into the family business with him and caring for him until the end (exemplified by the unanswered questions that are asked of his deceased father throughout the film); whereas Todd pursued a dream that went unfulfilled, Chet has stability; and whereas Todd needed a place to live for a while, Chet found in Todd the inspiration he needed to follow his heart back to Brandon and live a more open life in their hometown.
Tiger Orange is a wonderful film about life, family and love with effective performances by the entire cast. As a contributor, I’m very pleased with my small investment. As a viewer, however, my only wish is that the film was fifteen minutes longer – not because Gasque didn’t effectively tell the story of these two characters in 75 minutes, but because I wanted to spend that much more time with them.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Wolfe Video