Before I watched first-time writer-director Tennyson Bardwell's award-winning Dorian Blues, I was expecting another tired coming-out (of the closet) story. Such stories, in which the protagonist suffers the agonies of revealing his or her homosexuality to an almost-always hostile family and friends, have become somewhat of a cliché, and didn't think this one would deliver a new perspective. In it, angst-plagued teenage gloom-spinner Dorian Lagatos has an already angry father, a closed-off mother and a superstar jock brother to hurdle before he can start his search for happiness, and it's not easy.
What's also not easy is making the material both fresh and accessible, and Bardwell does both, thanks to his eagerness, his atypical point-of-view and mostly, his very natural, rapid-fire sense of humor. Dorian, played with insight and matter-of-factness by Michael McMillian, is not all that likeable at the start. He exudes this whiny, brooding, I'm-such-a-tortured-snowflake, nobody-but-Morrissey-understands-me kind of energy. As he interacts more with the people who make up his world, though, it is easier to understand and forgive him. Soon, his gay struggle becomes simply a human struggle, which is when MacMillian and Bardwell have succeeded the most profoundly.
Bardwell also succeeds -- and in a big way -- in convincing us by proxy that Dorian's story is his own. While he draws on his life experiences (and what writer doesn't), Dorian Blues is not an autobiography, and Bardwell isn't actually gay, either. The thirty-something straight and married New York native took the time out of one of his 14-hour days shooting his possibly-supernatural thriller, The Skeptic, to talk with Cinematical.