On the make

Unlikable cast, '70s mind-set mar I'll Love You Forever

Consider the cast of characters: Ethan (Paul Marius) is moody — usually in a bad mood — because his inner child can't deal with the fact that his father raped him when he was an outer child;
Dennis (Jason Adams), Ethan's fuck buddy and "best friend in the world" screws everyone or tries to one way or another;
Steve (Roger Shank) is "not bad if you're into runaways," about a half-step below a hustler and climbing;
Peter (David Poynter) has more money than personality. "He's not a controlling person, but when things don't go exactly the way he wants, he calls it quits." It's hard to see why three guys would be fighting over him; and Jeff (Miles Wilshire), Peter's lover, is insanely jealous and itching for a fight.
Does this sound like a crowd you'd like to spend a couple of days in Palm Springs with? Well, I did, and believe me, it was no picnic.
The Palm Springs segment takes up about half the running time of I'll Love You Forever ... Tonight, Edgar Michael Bravo's feature that proves film school can't vaccinate you against all the symptoms of first feature-itis. It was Bravo's thesis film at UCLA and was marketed as the first gay feature film in the United States written and directed by a Latino, even though it has an all-Anglo cast. (It hit screens in San Francisco, where I saw it in 1992, around the same time as Rick Martinez' Glamazon: A Different Kind of Girl. I never found out which was first out of the lab.)
There's little or no smoking in I'll Love You Forever ... Tonight, but Bravo seems determined to prove gay men can drink the women of Claire of the Moon, which came out the same year, under the table. Though apparently set in the early '90s when it was made, the film has a '70s, pre-AIDS sensibility. It's full of happy (though sometimes inwardly tortured) homosexuals whose tongues and/or dicks hang out when they see other men. Their sole concern is pleasure, with no thought of the consequences.
In the opening scene, Ethan picks up a hustler (Thomas Jane) in a bar and brings him home. He tries to throw him out after sex, then relents and in the morning offers to let him stay a few days. But the guy leaves. And that's unfortunate, because he might have been more interesting than Ethan to spend the next 70 minutes with. Jane's the only actor in the cast who followed this film with any major credits.
Palm Springs is Dennis' idea. He's after Jeff and wants to use Ethan, who had an affair with Peter in college, to break up the couple and free Jeff for himself. Dennis brings Steve along to keep him happy until his scheme works, or in case it doesn't. Is this guy a class act or what?
The five men stay at a nice motel where no other guests or even staff are in evidence. We're either in the Twilight Zone or a very low-budget movie. Steve checks out Peter's assets and throws himself at him. Ethan still has flashbacks to his time with Peter and wouldn't mind an encore.
So who gets lucky? We never find out, but it's apparently none of the above. Peter stays out all night and won't say where he's been, even though Jeff's ready to beat it out of him.
Though the characters in I'll Love You Forever ... Tonight seem to be screwing all the time, there are only two sex scenes, both shot entirely above the waist and shown two or three times. One is the opening encounter between Ethan and the hustler, the other the flashback of Ethan and Peter. In addition to these multiple runs, Ethan replays a lot of sound bites in his head. It saves on writing and recording additional dialogue, but doesn't make great drama (although the technique has been used effectively in some dramas that were great to begin with).
Short scenes keep the film moving at a good clip, so while it's never fully absorbing, it's never quite dull either. The actors are adequate to their task, but the characters Bravo has assigned them are not appealing enough to earn them much fan mail. Jason Adams and Miles Wilshire are such similar types it's hard to tell Dennis and Jeff apart.
Jeff Crum's black-and-white cinematography is good but doesn't give the film the glossy, expensive look Claire of the Moon had.
Gay films have gotten much slicker and more mainstream in the eight years since this one was released. It didn't stand up well to the competition of the time and looks even weaker in the shadow of The Broken Hearts Club.
I'll Love You Forever ... Tonight was made for school and should have been left there, rather than subjected to the appraisal of professional critics. Bravo followed it by co-directing Venus Rising, which went directly to video in 1995. He's currently in Atlanta working on his third feature. I hope it will be wonderful, but Edgar didn't earn any bravos with this one.