As gay movies about extremely unlikeable lead characters with no redeeming facets (except, maybe, for a large endowment) go, “Waking Up Dead” (Breaking Glass Pictures) is amusing, sexy, and even more than a little touching.
Before the credits roll, one-named writer/director Terracino surprises us, and even brings us close to tears.
“Waking Up Dead” spans four days in the life of out-of-work gay actor Danny (Gabriel Sousa), who is at the end of his rope, so to speak. At 35, he’s struggling to get cast in anything, and it’s been five years since his previous TV role. But that’s not the worst of it. Danny’s boyfriend Eddy (Caio Ara) discovers that he’s been unfaithful (Danny has a problem with fidelity) and moves out. Danny’s sister Sabrina (Angelic Zambara), keeps calling him with updates on their dying, former drug addict mother, whom Danny hasn’t seen in 20 years.
Additionally, Danny’s being evicted from his apartment, creditors are after him, and his mobile phone service is being cut off for non-payment. Adding insult to injury, Karen (Jordan Roberts) thinks she recognizes Danny from a movie or TV, and then goes on to misidentify him as Latinx actors Guillermo Diaz and Victor Rasuk.
Danny’s friend Tony (Joe Cameron) offers him a place to stay for a few days, to give him a chance to get himself together. But he spends more time masturbating than meditating, with his nose buried in Grindr instead of putting it to the grindstone. He also vapes a lot of weed.
In addition to Sabrina, Danny has other influential women in his life. Actress and good friend Ilana (Cody Renee Cameron) offers support and encouragement. Social media life coach Raven (Patricia McKenzie) provides Danny with useful tools and affirmations for achieving his goals. His agent Phyllis (Traci Lords) does what she can to secure his auditions, but he realizes that she doesn’t necessarily have his best interests at heart. Former actress turned realtor Lila (Judy Geeson) is the one with the best advice, but Danny is reluctant to accept any of it. There are also negative influences, including buddy Antonio (Nelson Arrieta, Jr.), who is having his own gay relationship issues, and drug dealer Jacob (Ed Morrone).
In the midst of attempted suicide, Danny gets a call from Phyllis’ assistant informing him of Shonda Rhimes’ interest in him for a new series pilot. Seeing it as an opportunity to turn his life around, Danny vows to live up to his wasted potential. But his insecurity and constant self-sabotaging put everything in jeopardy.
Terracino and his team of actors, especially Sousa and Geeson, give this indie feature their all, and while it’s far from perfect, “Waking Up Dead” won’t put you to sleep.
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.