Thursday night at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art represents your second chance to take in Yen Tan’s Pit Stop, in case you missed the microbudgeted drama at last summer’s deadCENTER Film Festival.
Yen Tan’s tale is one of two Texans in transition. Gabe (Bill Heck) is a building contractor who still lives with his ex-wife (Amy Seimetz, Upstream Color) and their young daughter. Meanwhile, Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda, K-11) juggles his time between trying to rid his home of a much younger roommate and reading in vain to a comatose former lover.
Both Gabe and Ernesto are gay.
Neither man makes a big deal out of it, and arguably, neither does Pit Stop — at least not until the two strangers rendezvous for anonymous sex in a motel, and the film’s climax is a literal one.
But that meet-cute is contained within the final 15 minutes — hardly a spoiler, given the poster art — and there are 65 slow-going minutes before that. The Malaysian-born Tan, who co-wrote the script with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery, seems to specialize in a method of anti-cinema; his camera is nonjudgmental toward his characters and barely noticed by the audience. He likes quiet moments, and Pit Stop is packed with almost nothing but. Its sleepy pace is by design, with Curtis Heath’s reticent score lilting right along in tune and in time.
The title of Tan’s film could refer to the ever-present convenience store in and out of which the characters go throughout, but we know the true intention is metaphorical, affixed as a label to Gabe and Ernesto, two damaged souls stuck in a rut from which they cannot escape until they meet one another. Heck and DeAnda embody those broken spirits easily with natural, unshowy performances that greatly benefit from the actors being unknowns.
But to what end? Like its everyday heroes, Pit Stop finds itself sunk in the mud, spinning its wheels to no avail. It is a little too in love with its self-perceived importance to take the story to a point that satisfies the sit. Glimmers of hope can be seen when Tan starts to explore how Gabe reacts so rudely to his ex-wife embarking on a first date with a co-worker (John Merriman, Cinema Six) he deems below her league. This is discarded as soon as the sequence closes.
There are better films that address head-on the difficulty of being gay in a homophobic world (not the least of which is the current six-time Oscar nominee Dallas Buyers Club), and there are many more better human dramas, period.