Never Met Picasso

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Stephen Kijak

REVIEWED: 12-01-97

This is a sweet and generous first-time feature by local writer-director Stephen Kijak, and thoroughly professional. But it suffers fatally from the thinness of its narrative. Not that much is supposed to happen in this story of lethargic gay slacker Andy (Alexis Arquette), who lives with Mom (Margot Kidder) and whose oil paintings are blocked. He obsesses about being rescued by a mail contest that would allow him to paint away in Kenya. Unfortunately, his floundering is neither funny nor saddening. You're not likely to care whether Andy can achieve his art, or whether his love relationships fail or succeed.

For a time, Andy has an affair with a bearded, pompous historian returned from Poland (Toronto actor Don McKellar), but in Kijak's treatment it's hard to tell whether their coupling means anything. It simply passes time in the movie. Ditto a relationship between Andy's lesbian pal Lucy (Georgia Ragsdale) and her spacy, channeling girlfriend Ingrid (Onewenne). Ditto Lucy's eventual cruising of Andy's actress mother.

There are some humorous moments surrounding Mom's Off Boston stage production of The Naked Tenor. What Kijak's film establishes best is the rapport between Andy and his equally dreamy gay uncle Alfred (the ART's Alvin Epstein), who's also a painter. Alfred invents for himself a life in Paris in the '20s, though as the title insists, he "never met Picasso." Just as his nephew, stumbling about Boston, never met Basquiat.

--Gerald Peary

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