Brazilian director Thales Corrêa’s new film Bathroom Stalls and Parking Lots has a lot on its mind about the postmodern gay male experience. It’s a brisk and focused hashing-out of a lot of the issues that proliferate around modern hookup culture. It’s not the bawdy scenario one might expect from the title, but it could be very useful as a prelude to broaching questions about expectations, and ideals, or even as an intervention, if need be. This is one of those films that addresses queer issues that are just too complex for the straight folks to deal with, so keep that in mind.
Leo (Corrêa), after losing his job in L.A., has motored up to San Francisco to spend some time with his best friend Donatello (Izzy Pallazzini, who cowrote the film with Corrêa and produced it) and to track down Totah, an intermittent hookup and object of affection. Leo and Donnie, both Brazilian emigrés, have a boisterous and bilingual friendship that serves as the foundation for the film’s ambles through several San Francisco bars, clubs, underwear parties, and sensual pits. Everyone’s got something that they’re looking for, and along for the ride is Hunter, a ‘straight’ personal trainer with a taste for cocaine and messy boundaries.
Leo is naïve. Like, straight guy virgin in an ‘80s film naïve; he’s got a John Cusack-y quality. He’s not a prude but does a terrible job of figuring out what he wants out of life or expressing his wants and needs to others. Sometimes he’s like a shining queer beacon. as if designed in a lab, and other times he’s a messy magnet for possessive missteps. Always he’s ill at ease in his own skin.
Similarly, Donnie is completely sexually free (to the point of playing questionable games with consent) but poisonous to Ethan, a younger guy who genuinely cares for him. He’s outrageous and witty and always willing to throw money or a*s at a problem, but we’ve seen (and possibly been) that type before. Donnie is proof that even though wigs don’t lie, they don’t always tell the truth.
The film periodically seems like a gay riff on Scorsese’s Afterhours, and it comes alive in its tangles that aren’t so focused on our main characters or their all-night boulevard of bad decisions. There’s a detour to a fluorescent-lit underwear party, where it seems like everyone present has a story to tell, and likely one less hackneyed than our main duo’s issues.
But it’s hard to fault a film that is not afraid to get at the heart of how contemporary dick-based tech has changed so many dynamics, leaving lots of space for our own natures to get in the way of actual discourse. This is a drama dressed up as a comedy, and that’s the perspective to take into it. See it with your messiest friends—just know that your messiest friend could be you.
Bathroom Stalls and Parking Lots is available on DVD and Video On Demand from Breaking Glass Pictures as of September 10, 2019.