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Inside Out 2012: ‘Stud Life’ is as inauthentic as its cross-dressing protagonist

Stud Life

Written and directed by Campbell X

UK, 2012

Written and directed by Campbell X, Stud Life tells the story of JJ (T’Nia Miller), a butch lesbian with ample swagger and confidence. Living with her flamboyant gay best friend and assistant wedding photographer, Seb (Kyle Treslove), JJ looks for the perfect woman. When she meets Elle (Robyn Kerr), JJ thinks she’s realized her dreams, but when their relationship develops, so to does the tension between the three.

Set in the seedy undergrowth of urban London, Stud Life professes to be a gritty, forthright examination of gay culture in the streets. The result is anything but. Schmaltzy, tedious, and histrionic, the film takes every possible opportunity to fulfill melodramatic tropes.

Everything about the narrative feels manufactured and calculated, centered around set pieces that are meant to manipulate emotions. With little continuity and logic, the story will go from one gay-person-as-victim banality to the next, with an equally banal love story thrown into the mix.

The relationship itself often oscillates on a whim, with JJ, Elle, and Seb taking arbitrary turns at being fed up with each other. The relationships all feel fake, with their contrived fallouts acting a symptom of the scripts larger problem.

With Disney level dialogue and overly sentimental situations, the constant accentuation of “never giving up” and “always be yourself” is more befitting of a child-oriented cartoon than a serious film.

Added to that, the post-modern technique of character exposition through new media is jarringly incongruous. How can the viewer get a sense of the grit and shrewdness of a situation or character when it’s told through a video blog? This is supposed to be a hard-hitting queer drama, not Easy A.

Couple this with the tin pot production value and a perplexing amount of screen wipe transitions, Stud Life amounts to an experience as inauthentic as its cross-dressing protagonist.

-Justin Li

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