Luke, an aspiring teen model, gets lured to New York City by Rich, a modeling agent with dangerous alternative motives. Mesmerized by the bright lights of the big city, Luke gets sucked into the same abuse he ran away from at home. In the city, he also meets Tim, a photographer who is conflicted about his own sexuality.
“A troubled teen struggling with his identity and what he wants his future to be opens up a world of story possibilities. At its core, Grinder delves into the underbelly of exploited people lured by the promises of modeling contracts. Approached through the lens of the GLBT community, this movie helps bring an underrepresented community to the big screen. It deals with the themes of struggling with self-identification, finding your place in the world, and standing up for your beliefs.” —Jeff
“For me, Tim was so compelling in this film, I would almost rather have the story revolve around him than Luke. Luke’s story is the most shocking, but he never grows out of being a victim. Meanwhile, Tim’s character is the great tragedy in this film. We first see him living out a great life that he has created. Then he loses everything he thought he wanted, all because he refused to embrace himself.” —Drew
“First-time director Brandon Ruckdashel makes a valiant attempt with this art film. He takes plenty of risks; some pay off well. He utilizes interesting visuals throughout the movie, using long takes that bring your focus to the main character and attempt to show how he sees the world around him. The movie has a consistent look that holds though till the end.” —Jeff
“I agree that this film has a unique look, but it can be unbalanced at times. A lot of great static shots draw you into the emotion of each character, but I get thrown out of the movie with some of the dialogue scenes. It’s jarring to have a shot that gives the audience so much to interpret, then go to a basic back-and-forth dialogue scene.” —Drew
“Even with an interesting premise, the movie is hard to sit through. Technical and pacing issues make it hard to follow the story. At times, the dialogue is lost under the background noise. The writing feels unnatural, causing character interactions to feel forced and uncomfortable. There is little setup or introduction to the characters, making it difficult to understand their relationships with each other or for the audience to connect with them. Sometimes I found scenes disorienting.” —Jeff
“The motivations of the characters are lost on me, as well. We never learn why Luke wants to be a model or why Tim is so ashamed to be gay. It doesn’t help that the conversations tend to be redundant and add little to move the plot forward. The visual storytelling, on the other hand, is far superior. You really feel Tim’s conflict in trying to find himself, as well as the disorientation and betrayal Luke experiences in his abusive relationship.” —Drew
The film presents a unique premise that explores seldom visualized topics and serves a community that deserves more attention. It’s worth a look while you’re at the Twin Cities Film Festival.
Grinder plays Oct. 20, 2016, 9:10 p.m. at the Showplace Icon Theater located in The Shops at West End.