A sullen teen falls for a closeted jock in a tropey tale of heartbreak. I saw Get Real in 1998 and disliked it. It shined a mirror on an ugly adolescence I was ready to escape. The critics saw something I missed and gave it positive reviews. I decided to give the movie another look in 2020. Ben Silverstone’s leading performance has charm. His scenes with Brad Gorton’s jock are intense but they make up a third of the story. He spends the rest of his time with an underwritten supporting cast who drag the film down.
Let me get real with you in this spoiler filled recap.
Trigger warning: This film contains implied teen/adult sex and a scene of violence.
Act One: Meet Cute
Scene One: Basingstoke High School
STEVE (A 16 year old writer): I’m hooking up with men at the park toilets.
FEMALE FRIEND: That’s dangerous! You’re a minor! And I’m in love with you.
MEAN JOCKS: We hate you Steve.
STEVE: I hate all the jocks except John, the hot angsty track star.
FEMALE FRIEND: John looks a little old for high school.
STEVE: The actor is 24. He can do nude scenes without it being creepy.
FEMALE FRIEND: He’s playing a high school senior so… it’s still sorta creepy.
Scene Two: Park Toilets
(Steve writes notes to someone in the stall next door. His pen runs out of ink (LOL) so they meet outside.)
JOHN: Surprise, it’s me! The hot angsty track star! Bet you didn’t see that coming!
STEVE: I’d like to see you cu-
JOHN: Stop. I’m not gay. I just do this for a laugh.
(John straddles Steve and undoes his belt. Steve tries to kiss him. John flees.)
JOHN: I said I’m not gaaaaaaaaaaay!
STEVE: (sigh) At least the married men at these toilets know what they want. How have I not been murdered?
Act Two: Will They or Won’t They?
Scene Three: Meet the Supporting Cast
DAD: I think Steve is smoking drugs.
MOM: I’m pretty sure he’s smoking something else.
PUNK TEEN GIRL: I have a crush on John! And I run the school magazine.
REDHEADED TEEN BOY: I have a crush on the girl who runs the school magazine.
REDHEADED TEEN GIRL: I have a crush on Steve! Just like his other female friend does.
MEANEST MEAN JOCK: I used to date the Redheaded Teen Girl. I’m mad that she likes Steve!
FEMALE FRIEND: You’ve already met me. I have a subplot where I hook up with my driving instructor.
DRIVING INSTRUCTOR: I’m 40 and married!
STEVE: Got that? Is all the straight drama accounted for?
FEMALE FRIEND: You’d have a shorter recap if you cut these people.
STEVE: But that’s the problem. These people take up most of the run time.
Scene Four: Back to the Gay Stuff
(Steve and John dance with girls while staring at each other. John follows Steve home.)
JOHN: You left your front door unlocked. How have you not been murdered?
STEVE: Dunno. So…sex?
JOHN: But first a monologue. This film was based on a play after all. A year ago, I went on a field trip and went swimming with a guy and he touched me and I got an erection and ran away and now I look at you and I get an erection and realize something’s wrong with me and I’m going to ugly cry.
STEVE: You had me at erection.
(Steve and John kiss. The camera discretely fades to black.)
Act Three: Heartbreak
Scene Five: Basingstoke High School
JOHN: We can date but I’m going to ignore you at school.
(John ignores Steve at School. Steve makes a surprised Pikachu face.)
STEVE: I’m tired of feeling ashamed! I won an essay contest but now I’m going to angry-type a new essay about how hard it is to be gay! That couldn’t possibly affect my tenuous secret relationship.
Scene Six: Locker Room
(A triggery scene approaches. Steve sniffs John’s shirt.)
MEAN JOCKS: This essay writing queer sniffed your shirt! Why do queer boys in movies always do that?
JOHN: Guard the door while I beat him up!
(Mean Jocks step outside.)
JOHN: I shall punch my backpack so they think I’m punching you. Thus I shall outwit them while maintaining my masculine credentials. Tee-hee!
(John punches his backpack. Steve smiles. The jocks come back in.)
JOHN: Never mind.
(John hits Steve hard. Twice. Then flees.)
Scene Seven: School Assembly
TEACHER: And the award for the essay nobody cares about goes to Steve!
STEVE: I actually wrote two essays. It’s a shame you didn’t get to hear them. They might have provided insight into my character. The second one was about being gay. And how it feels lonely even when you know you’re not the only one. Because I’M GAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!!
(Steve sobs. Audience nervously applauds. Afterward…)
JOHN: I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I love you!
(Steve hops in a car with his female friend and drives off into the future.)
FEMALE FRIEND: I got my drivers license!
STEVE: Nobody cares.
“I was sick of being told by people – even gay people – that it’s easier to be gay now… I don’t believe it’s easier than it ever was to come out.” ~ Author Patrick Wilde.
Steve’s a bit of a prat. He snubs his parents, snaps at his friends and nearly outs his boyfriend. In his defense the closet is brutal. John’s better at passing and will have a harder time coming out. Hopefully he doesn’t end up like Steve’s toilet tricks, holding on to a wife and kids he resents.
I’ve reviewed many LGB teen dramas. Most go through the same beats Steve does but find joy on the other side. Get Real doesn’t have the cathartic ending of a Beautiful Thing or Love, Simon. His assembly meltdown is more depressing than triumphant. But the women in his life support him and his goodbye drive hints at a brighter future.
Have you seen Get Real? Is there an LGBT film from your youth you’d like to revisit? What recent films would have helped when you were coming out? Next week: more teen angst in 1998’s Edge of Seventeen. For more reviews of LGBT media click here.