LGBT Movies: Threesome (1994) & Fun Down There (1989)

Stephen Baldwin likes Lara Flynn Boyle, who likes Josh Charles, who likes Stephen Baldwin. They’re fit young college students living in the same dorm. The solution seems obvious… or does it? Threesome hadn’t much to offer a closeted teen in 1994. Josh Charles seemed like a self-loathing fool who slept with a woman he didn’t want to get close to a straight guy. Perhaps in 2020, with a better understanding of bi, pan and fluid identities, I’d give Threesome a more generous reading.

I’ve decided to pair it with 1989’s Fun Down There. A film I discovered in 2019 that would have done my younger self a world of good. Curious? Then read my spoiler filled recaps.

Threesome (1994)

3S Backstage
Lara Flynn Boyle, Josh Charles and Stephen Baldwin play unlikely dorm mates.

Act One: A Clerical Error.

“In earlier, more naive times “Threesome” would be the most controversial film of the season.” ~ Roger Ebert

Scene One: College Campus
JOSH CHARLES: I’m a junior mid term transfer student. And your new roommate.
STEPHEN BALDWIN: I’ll introduce myself while sitting on the toilet. Later I’ll munch on a nameless woman’s bare breast. It’s to establish that I’m crass and uninhibited.
NAMELESS WOMAN: I went to acting school for this.
LARA FLYNN BOYLE: I’ll introduce myself while showering. This film is all about the male gaze. Why have I been put in a men’s dorm?
RUDE SECRETARY: Because your character’s name is Alex. If you can’t afford to live off campus you can join a wait list but “I’ll need official verification that you’re a woman.”

1994 ME: The secretary scene is stupid.
2020 ME: And offensive. But they’ve set up the plot in 8 minutes. They know their premise is nonsense and they’re leaning in.

Scene Two: Attraction
STEPHEN: I stole Lara’s panties and keep touching her without consent.
JOSH: You’re revolting but I find you attractive. Can I write your English papers for you?
STEPHEN: Sure you can.
LARA: Josh can read and write? That’s hot. (She strips and leaps on top of Josh.)
JOSH: Who are you, Malibu Stacey? GET OFF ME. I’m maybe, probably, gay.
LARA: You’re a virgin. I’ll turn you straight. (She humps a desk.)

1994 ME: I hate these people.
2020 ME: I think we’re supposed to at this point. The film isn’t taking Stephen’s vile behavior seriously enough.

Act Two: We have options.

3S. Arquette date.
Alexis Arquette makes a move on Josh Charles.

Scene Three: Dating
STEPHEN: My one redeeming quality is that I’m not homophobic.
LARA: The three of us should stay friends. Let’s only have sex outside our circle.
MALE EXTRA: Very sensible. I’d like to date Lara.
JOSH & STEPHEN: No. Get out!
FEMALE EXTRA: I’d like to date Stephen.
LARA & JOSH: No. Get out!
ALEXIS ARQUETTE: I’d like to date Josh.
JOSH: Ugh. You smell like cat litter. Go away.
(Josh stares at Stephen in the shower.)

1994 ME: OH SCREW YOU PEOPLE! SCREW LARA! SCREW STEPHEN! AND SCREEEW JOSH CHARLES!
2020 ME: Hey buddy, it’s okay. The movie can’t hurt you.
1994 ME: Josh treats the only other gay man in this film with contempt.
2020 ME: It’s called internalized homophobia. But you’re right. So far, my opinions on Threesome hasn’t changed. Arquette identifies as trans but has played cis men in better films. This makes I Think I Do look like a masterpiece.
1994 ME: At least we’re getting male nudity.
2020 ME: You are going to love the internet.
1994 ME: You mean AOL?

Scene Four: Hooking Up
LARA: So first we go skinny dipping and I talk both men into kissing me.
STEPHEN: Then Lara and Josh fight. I use Lara’s vulnerability as an excuse to sleep with her.
JOSH: I come back to repair the friendship. I try to sleep Lara. It’s lousy.
LARA: Don’t call me lousy!
JOSH: Then I get Stephen drunk and try to seduce him.
STEPHEN: I’m not falling for that.
JOSH: So, I leave. Then come back. Again.

1994 ME: Boo. Why did the writers make Josh sleep with her?
2020 ME: It seems consensual. You’re basically a Kinsey 6 and nothing in your life has challenged that. He could be bi or pan. Or just curious. Some people are flexible if they’re given a safe opportunity to experiment.
1994 ME: Stephen Baldwin isn’t experimenting.
2020 ME: Fair point. Josh needs to stop coming back.

Act Three: Was it good for you?

3S Bedroom.
The title of the film is a spoiler.

Scene Five: Bedroom
JOSH: I’m moving out.
LARA: Don’t do that. Let’s have a threesome.
STEPHEN: Like the title of the film? Cool.
(Josh and Stephen have sex with Lara. Josh touches Stephen’s hip. Then removes his hand. Stephen pulls Josh’s hand back to his hip.)

1994 ME: That’s it? That’s all Josh gets?
2020 ME: It’s a bigger deal for Stephen’s character then for Josh. Josh will be fine once he starts dating gay men.

Scene Six: Bathroom
LARA: I think I’m pregnant.
(Stephen vomits and cries.)
STEPHEN: I need to be more responsible. I’m having a moment of character growth. THIS IS ALL ABOUT ME!
JOSH: The pregnancy test is negative.
LARA: Let’s break up.
JOSH (in voiceover): And so, we all moved out and drifted apart. Stephen found a girlfriend, I found a boyfriend and Alex stayed single. We all learned… to live life and enjoy the ride?
(They drive off in a red car, like the lead did at the end of Get Real.)

THE END

1994 ME: So what was the thesis of that movie?
2020 ME: Something something seize the day? But seriously, I think it’s trying to tell “the youths” that sexual experimentation and self-doubt are okay.
1994 ME: That offers me no comfort.
2020 ME: Well you and I aren’t the target audience for this movie. And it isn’t very good. But that’s okay. Here’s something you would have enjoyed more:

LGBT Movies: Fun Down There (1989)
Fun Down There. 1989. Frameline.

 A closeted farm boy spends a week in New York City. The trip opens his mind and changes his life. The film-making is amateurish, and there’s no external conflict, but the leading man is quirky and sympathetic. A scene where he’s calmly taught about the ins and outs of safe gay sex is quietly revolutionary. The film captures the joy of a good coming out experience.

“As played with great inner humor and intelligence by Michael Waite, Buddy is an endearing naif.” ~ Vincent Canby, New York Times

A Trip to Oz
BUDDY (a working class lad): I’m moving to New York.
MOM and DAD: You’re welcome to stay on the farm till you find a girl and get married.
(Buddy hides in his room and masturbates to Playgirl. Later…)
***
PHOTOGRAPHER: Welcome to New York. Fancy a cigarette and a hand job?
BUDDY: There’s a lot of smoking in this mov… oh my. (Bursts into tears.)
***
WAITER: Welcome to your first day of work! You’ll need an apron. Take mine.
(Waiter ties an apron on Buddy and kisses him.)

A Love Triangle
PHOTOGRAPHER: Why do you keep giggling and sobbing during sex?
BUDDY: You’re the first guy I’ve ever touched.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Then I’d better give you a lesson on safe sex and STD’s. (He does.)
BUDDY: Better than anything they taught me in school.
PHOTOGRAPHER: And knowing is half the battle.
***
(We get a boring 7-minute montage of Buddy walking through New York streets.)
***
WAITER: What did you do after graduation?
BUDDY: Milked cows and watched TV. I saw a talk show about a place in New York where you could cure your gayness. But now that I’m here, I don’t want to.

Welcome Home
PHOTOGRAPHER: Move in with me.
BUDDY: You sure? I slept with a Waiter from work.
PHOTOGRAPHER: We don’t have to be exclusive as long as we’re safe.
***
BUDDY (on the phone): Mom and Dad? Everything’s okay. I’ve got a job and a place to stay. I’m not coming back. I love you too. Bye bye.
THE END
(Post credits stinger.) DAD: “I don’t care if he falls for a girl or a boy as long as he stays off drugs.”

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Threesome 2011 Comedy Central banner
Emun Elliott, Amy Huberman and Stephen Wight in Threesome (2011)

When I reviewed Sunday Bloody Sunday I commented that happy throuples are rare in media. Threesome tries but fails because each partner is manipulating one person for access to another. Here are two more examples.

Just One Time (1999, US). A straight guy pressures his fiance to sleep with a  woman. She says she’ll consider it if he sleeps with her gay friend (Scandal’s Guillermo Díaz). He begs her forgiveness for ever having fantasies in the first place. She accepts his apology, content that she’s “enough for him.” It doesn’t take Dan Savage to tell you this couple has problems. This obnoxious film thinks it’s wild but comes off as prudish. The issue isn’t the “fantasy.” The issue is him pressuring her after she said “no,” and her manipulating the gay guy to teach her boyfriend a “lesson.” At least the gay guy gets paired off with an affable boyfriend at the end.

Threesome. (2011, UK series). A straight couple invite their gay friend into a drunken threesome. (Straight man: “No eye contact. No c*** touching.”) When the woman gets pregnant with the gay man’s sperm they decide to raise the baby as a throuple. The woman chases away the gay man’s first serious boyfriend. It seems she’d prefer he remain her celibate sidekick, though the episode never calls her out on it.

Did you like Threesome more than I did? Have you found healthy examples of throuples in media? What films would you show an LGBT teenager today? You can rent Threesome here and Fun Down There here. For more reviews of LGBT media click here.