First look at movie ‘Look­ing’

Cas­tro pre­miere for film ty­ing up loose ends of HBO se­ries

San Francisco Chronicle - - DATEBOOK - By Eli Wolfe

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.”

Pho­tos by Amy Osborne / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

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.

Pho­tos by Amy Osborne / Spe­cial to The Chron­i­cle

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.”

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