With an opening that looks like what “West Side Story” might resemble had it been directed by John Waters, Amanda Kramer’s campy and thought-provoking, “Please Baby Please” (Music Box Films) is a sight to behold.
Beginning with the loosely choreographed title sequence featuring the Young Gents, a gang of leather-jacket-clad greasers, roaming the alleys and streets of New York itching for a fight, the mood is as light as it is heavy, man.
Newlywed beatniks Suze (Andrea Riseborough, with teased hair and outrageous eyeliner) and precious, clarinet-playing Arthur (Harry Melling) witness the Young Gents brutally murder a couple near the entrance to their apartment building. Stunned into silence, Suze is the first to speak when the gang leader asks what their apartment number is, and she answers him. Meanwhile, Arthur’s eyes do all the talking as he and Teddy (smoldering Karl Glusman), the “Brando type” gang member, cruise up a sexual storm.
At a gathering in Suze and Arthur’s apartment with friends Ida (Alisa Torres), Les (Yedoye Travis), and Baker (Marquis Rodriguez), reveals that Arthur’s “had his cage rattled,” and Suze is equally fearful of the “hustlers” and “lunatics” who know where they live. After the guests leave, Arthur wanders off to The Blue Angel, while Suze meets Maureen (Demi Moore), her glamorous, leopard-print adorned neighbor in apartment 10F. A self-described “slum starlet,” Maureen makes it clear she’s “a wife, but no wifey.” She’s in trouble and on her way to Europe, so she enlists Suze to feed her “fussy Burmese cat” Taffeta while she’s away. Suze agrees, partly because she’s fascinated with Maureen’s array of “high-ticket” appliances.
In the meantime, Arthur and Teddy have a moment in the men’s room at The Blue Angel. Same-sex eroticism and attraction are recurring themes throughout. This leads to the characters having philosophical discussions about standards of masculinity, gender identity, queerness, and ultimately “living on a dying planet with impossible obstacles.” The concepts are handled with humor, but with an undertone of seriousness that is sure to give viewers something to think about later.
A smattering of musical and dance numbers (including one with an iron that you have to see to believe), candy-colored lighting, many more murders, a drag queen singing in a phone booth, a poetry reading, and a raid in a gay porno theater all combine to form a kitschy homage to a simpler, although no less difficult time.
Kramer gets solid performances out of her cast, especially Riseborough, Melling, Glusman, and Moore. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Mary Lynn Rajskub play old-school butch Lois complete with a men’s suit and slicked-back hair.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.