First look at movie ‘Looking’
Castro premiere for film tying up loose ends of HBO series
On Sunday, June 26, throngs of revelers streamed through the Castro in search of parties and revelry. But the sidewalk outside of the Castro Theatre was the site of a logjam, as pedestrians slowed to a halt to gawk at a parade of movie stars.
Sunday marked the closing night of the 40th San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival, which was organized by the nonprofit organization Frameline. To wrap up the 10-day event, Frameline hosted the world premiere of HBO’s “Looking: The Movie.” The film is the finale for the HBO series that followed three young gay men — Patrick (Jonathan Groff), Dom (Murray Bartlett) and Agustin (Frankie J. Alvarez) — trying to navigate love and friendship in San Francisco.
HBO canceled “Looking” in 2015 after just two seasons. But the studio agreed to tie up loose ends with a movie, which surprised and delighted the show’s creator, Michael Lannan.
“It would have been really sad if we hadn’t got to end it,” Lannan said before the premiere.
Lauren Weedman, who plays the character Doris in the series and movie, joked that she half expected to be given a T-shirt as a consolation prize after the cancellation of the
show. When she learned that it would be a movie, she was stunned.
“I didn’t know what they were going to throw at us — I guess I was glad it was a movie and not a Web series,” Weedman said. “I was even cynical about doing the movie, thinking, ‘Oh, this will be depressing,’ but it actually was very sweet.”
Andrew Haigh, the director, executive producer and cowriter of the film, explained that he felt attached to the characters from “Looking” and wanted to give them a proper farewell with the film.
“For us, it was always about these characters and showing their lives unfolding as they try to work out who they are, what they want and how they fit into the world,” Haigh said. “That’s all you really want as a gay person — you want somewhere to belong with other people who care for you.”
While the writers and actors of “Looking” posed for photos and greeted jubilant fans with hugs and selfies, a somber reminder of the dark side of Pride lay just down the block. On the corner of 18th and Castro, photos taped to the concrete commemorated the lives of the 49 men and women who were gunned down in a gay nightclub in Orlando earlier this month. Uniformed police officers patrolled the shrine and the entrance of the Castro Theatre.
Groff said that in light of the shooting, the movie premiere and Pride itself felt more significant.
“I feel even more grateful to be here and to be out and proud and celebrating pride in San Francisco — it’s a dream,” he said.
The Castro Theatre overflowed with attendees, many of whom laughed uproariously throughout the 90-minute film.
Louis Biedak, a longtime drag and performance artist who goes by the name Lulu, said he was happy to see the gay community receive some screen time. But he was turned off by the gratuitous party culture depicted in the film.
“I just felt like it didn’t have magic and romance,” Biedak said.
Michael Barnett, a San Franciscan who identified himself as a radical faerie, said that he was disappointed by the limited political scope of the film. But he was also grateful to see HBO producing a film that addressed any aspect of gay culture.
“It’s refreshing to see anything gay,” Barnett said. “And
for a mainstream movie to deal with LGBT issues, that in itself is progressive.”
After a brief Q&A, many audience members made a beeline for the Oasis Nightclub, where Frameline hosted an afterparty. Here, too, security was tight, with patrons receiving full-body pat-downs and passing through a metal detector.
But once inside, the unpleasantness of the upgraded security measures melted away as a cabaret chorus led by Oasis’ proprietor, Heklina, greeted visitors with a rousing rendition of “Willkommen” and a burst of confetti.
Frances Wallace, Frameline’s executive director, attempted to quiet down the rowdy audience to introduce the jurors who would announce the Frameline film awards.
The big winner was the writer-director Piotr Lewandowski, who won the Frameline 40 First Feature Award (and its $7,500 purse prize) for his psychodrama “Jonathan.” But Tom Brown, the director of the film “Pushing Dead,” won the most applause of the night as he distilled the essence of Pride while accepting his Frameline 40 AT&T Audience Award.
“There are so many people trying to stir up hate in the world,” Brown said. “But we’re trying to stir up love.”
Above: The cast of HBO’s “Looking: The Movie” poses for photos at the premiere at the Castro Theatre on Sunday. Left: A Pride passerby is thrilled to see actor Jonathan Groff, who plays Patrick.
Above: Michael Brown (left) and Donald Bird dance at the afterparty at Oasis, following Sunday’s “Looking: the Movie” premiere in S.F. Left: Actor Jonathan Groff talks to a reporter about his time in San Francisco filming the HBO series “Looking.”