"Bitterly funny, bracingly true, one of the best gay films in a long while!"-David Noh, Film Journal
Sharp, entertaining, quietly sad, ... an invigorating and accomplished movie..., "The Fluffer" is a sly and hilarious deconstruction of the industry.... The movie has a lacerating, pungent humor. Glatzer and West know where the bodies are buried, and they refuse to turn away from the ugliness of the [porn] industry. -- Patrick Z. McGavin, The Chicago Tribune
"Glatzer and West have gone out of their way to distance their film from "Boogie Nights", the holy grail of porn-world sagas to which 'The Fluffer' bears obvious, and favorable comparison. Sharp, surprising and substantial."-Jan Stuart, Newsday
"Moves nimbly from behind-the-scenes comedy to melodrama...with sneaky flourishes of surreal style!" -A.O. Scott, New York Times
"[T]he film throughout merits particular praise for its subversion of traditional cinematic narratives: unrequited love, coming of age and crimes of passion follow unpredictable courses in an intelligent and compassionate movie." --Emma French, NitrateOnline, Nov. 16 2001
"Tantalizing, revealing...a wry, intelligent look at narcissism and desire." -Ethan Silverman, Out Magazine
"Everything you hoped 'Boogie Nights' would be, only without the prosthesis!" -Doug Brantley, Out Magazine
"Funny and sincere!" -Bob Westal, Film Threat
"An affectionate spoof of the porn industry...'The Fluffer' succeeds!" -Filmmaker Magazine
Sean's motivation is pretty simple, the chance to work with his object of infatuation, "Johnny Rebel" (Scott Gurney), a handsome though spectacularly conceited, solipsistic straight actor who works in gay pornography because of the better pay. The third member of the movie's perverse sexual triangle is Johnny's girlfriend, Julie (Roxanne Day), whose stage name is Babylon, a dancer at a depressing, forlorn strip club.
On his first day at the set, Sean is talked into a new job description, the basis of the movie's title, a sexual stimulant for the selfish star to improve the actor's "performance." Sean's "act" only intensifies his desire and attraction to the actor. In turn Johnny's inevitable disinterest only heightens Sean's sense of estrangement and loneliness, eliminating any hope of his carrying on an honest and emotionally accessible relationship. It also evokes painful memories of his first unrequited crush on the older neighbor who tantalized him as a kid.
For its first third, "The Fluffer" is a sly and hilarious deconstruction of the industry.... Filled with self-reflexive content (visual references to "Cool Hand Luke," "Easy Rider," a gay reading of Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo), the movie has a lacerating, pungent humor ("At least if you're gay, you don't have to worship Cher")... The filmmakers have an ease and comfort with their actors (the movie has exceptional secondary performances from Robert Walden, Taylor Negron, Richard Riehle and Adina Porter).
The movie changes tone significantly in the last hour, the story filled with a pervading sense of doom and defeat, guilt and loss, increasingly connected to the process of working in a business that by its nature is emotionally unstable. "We're not talking about sex. This is pornography," says one character. Unlike "Porn Star," "The Fluffer" is not an uncritical celebration of the porn industry. Glatzer and West know where the bodies are buried, and they refuse to turn away from the ugliness of the industry. The movie turns on a sense of loss and waste, of lives ruined and thrown away. Even when it at times edges toward a tediously moralistic tone, "The Fluffer" never loses its sense of horror. -- Patrick Z. McGavin, December 14, 2001
Sean McGinnis (Michael Cunio), a young man who has come to Hollywood with the usual show-biz dreams, applies for work at a skin-flick studio with the highest hopes. He's not looking to get in front of the camera so much as have the opportunity to get close to his favorite sex god. Before "The Fluffer" reaches its soberly ironic conclusion, Sean will realize his fantasy in ways that neither he nor we could have entirely anticipated.
The Fluffer bears obvious, and favorable, comparison [to Boogie Nights.] In his fresh-off-the-bus naivete, Sean resembles Mark Wahlberg's Dirk Diggler; in his futile, stage-door-Johnny crush, he recalls the closeted production assistant (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who yearns after Diggler to no avail....
Where "Boogie Nights" spins out of control when it strays from its porn milieu and spirals off into violence, "The Fluffer" begins to hit its stride as it leaves the studio behind and focuses its attention on the self-destructive impulses that drive Sean and Johnny Rebel....
The writing ... is sharp and surprising, buoyed by credible performances from the three leads, as well as tart cameos by Deborah Harry as a strip-parlor manager and Adina Porter as a lesbian who'd rather watch gay-male porn. -- Jan Stuart
THE NEW YORK TIMES
[A] thoughtfulness...is also evident in the three central performances.... Sean is, in some ways, a corrective to the smitten cameraman played by Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Boogie Nights." His desperate crush on Johnny is made more interesting by its contrast with his generally responsible, even-keeled temperament. And Julie is, similarly, a fundamentally stable woman whose love for [Johnny] is tinged with maternalism.
Mr. Gurney's role as the object of their devotion is both simpler and more difficult. While he needs most of all to look beautiful, he also has to serve as the screen for their fantasies and a troubled, inarticulate young man. He manages both to solicit the audience's sympathy and to deflect it, so that the film's center of gravity remains with Julie and Sean. -- A. O. Scott
NEW YORK POST
It's most interesting, and amusing, as an insider's look at the male adult film industry--screenwriter Wash West (who co-directed with Richard Glatzer) is a veteran director of gay porn ... well-paced and engaging... -- Lou Lemenick
Both Sean and the reprehensible yet magnetic Johnny invite empathy throughout, despite their complicity in the many tragic events the story narrates. The capacity of Johnny's girlfriend Babylon (Roxanne Day) to convey innocence and goodness even when dressed in pseudo-bondage stripper costumes is remarkable. Sean's immersion into the sleazy world he is experimenting with occurs with disturbing and insidious imperceptibility. His job description rapidly expands into "fluffing": helping the porn stars out when they have difficulty maintaining arousal. Encouraged by Johnny to experiment with crystal meth at an industry party, the hilarity of Sean's wired description of Hitchcock's Vertigo as "pure porn" temporarily masks the sinister nature of his transition from classic movie buff to fluffer and criminal accomplice.
On potentially dangerous ground with both their morality tale plotting and their undeniably heavy use of symbolism, the directors somehow make it work. Sean removes the batteries from his kitchen clock in order to fuel his remote control for pausing Citizen Cum lovingly at every body shot of Johnny Rebel. The frozen clock, eternally trapped at the same moment, remains a motif throughout the film, until a new clock faraway finally chimes the next minute for Sean, relieving him of his emotional stasis. The protagonists' descent into emotional betrayal, drugs and loss of selfhood is enacted with considerably more plausibility and directorial restraint than the orgiastic downward spiral in Boogie Nights.
...the film throughout merits particular praise for its subversion of traditional cinematic narratives: unrequited love, coming of age and crimes of passion follow unpredictable courses in an intelligent and compassionate movie. --Emma French, NitrateOnline, Nov. 16 2001
SHADOWS ON THE WALL
What starts as a rather dry and astute satire of the porn industry (including lots of hilarious on-set sequences and, of course, punny titles galore) slowly turns into a serious romantic drama involving Johnny's steady decline into a world of drugs and desperation, while the two people who love him try to save him from himself. It's pretty bleak, really, encompassing a murder, increasingly creepy flashbacks and the seedy aspects of the sex trade. And the more we learn about Johnny the less we can understand why anyone would be attracted to him; sure, he looks gorgeous, but under the skin he's a lowlife! Even with this uneven structure though, the film is extremely well-made, written and directed with honest insight into this hidden world and the people who populate it. And there's not an unconvincing performance anywhere--the entire cast is excellent, playing the scenes with a natural wit and vulnerability. Especially illuminating are the former porn stars (Walden, Riehle, Negron and Bagley), now all working behind the scenes and longing for the limelight. Surprisingly strong stuff for a comedy. -- Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall.
Filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash West take us behind the scenes at Men of Janus Prods. (responsible for 'Citizen Cum,' among many other titles), where Cunio is employed as a cameraman but finds himself also working as a 'fluffer' -- getting Gurney in the right 'mood' for sex scenes before the cameras roll. Pic also delves into Gurney's relationship with his lap-dancer girlfriend (Roxanne Day) and finds a cameo spot for Deborah Harry as manager of the club where Day performs.... good performances and smart camerawork. -- David Stratton
[B]eing a porn star, whether gay or straight, goes beyond the realm of regular exhibitionism into the upper reaches of narcissism. And the fluffer figure helps these performers feel like sexual deities. But other professions ... have this component too. In comedy clubs or rock concerts, the fluffer is the one who warms up the crowd for the big act. In real estate, the fluffer gets the house ready to show a client. And in a social situation, we are all capable of "fluffing" someone, to get what we desire. Let's face it, the movie implies, everyone's wither fluffing or being fluffed. -- Ethan Silverman
Finally, a porn film with a plot. Only thing is, there's no real sex, and this isn't a porno flick. When los Angeles newcomer Sean (Michael Cunio) isn't sticking labels on adult videos, the fresh faced lad shoots arty scenes for his not-so-secret fantasy, Johnny Rebel, a gay-for-pay stud with 10 inches and an erection problem. Sean quickly proves more talented on his knees than behind the camera, stepping into the role of Johnny's "fluffer" (i.e., the one who gets him hard.) This inside look at the adult film industry focuses on some very weighty adult issues (sexual identity, addiction, abortion) and features fine performances throughout. Everything you hoped Boogie Nights would be, only without the prosthesis. -- Doug Brantley
The story centers on Johnny Rebel a straight porn star who is 'gay-for-pay', and the lust object of one Sean McGinnnis. Sean starts his porn career so that he can, quite literally, get closer to Johnny. Wash West's insights into the sin é qua non of the porn industry have been garnered over seven years of research. This makes The Fluffer...possibly one of the most considered porn storylines ever. To be fair though, West's feature film is NOT a porn movie, rather a movie about the emotional cables that bind those who engage with the industry. -- Jane Czyzselska
Do you want to be a fluffer? In case you don't know what a one is, a fluffer performs the necessary stimulation to give a male porn-star the boner he needs to perform. Now do you want to be a fluffer? You can't blame cute boy Sean [Michael Cunio], who enters the porn industry with the hope of meeting [in more ways than one] his all-time favorite gay porn-star Johnny Rebel [Scott Gurney]. He might just have him too, if it weren't for Johnny's pesky girlfriend Babylon [Roxanne Day] getting in the way. Of course, you're going to have to tune in for all the money shots in this saucy summer sizzler.
ADULT VIDEO NEWS
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
GAY TIMES (UK)
Sean (Michael Cunio) is the cute but naive boy in town, seeking fame and fortune. The town is L.A. and the fame sought is, obviously, in the movie business. After renting Citizen Kane from his local video store (there's a barely noticed cameo here, from Go Fish star Guinevere Turner), Sean discovers that he has actually rented Citizen Cum - and thus begins his love affair with Johnny Rebel (Scott Gurney) and that remote control. After Sean gets a job as a cameraman at Men of Janus Videos, Johnny asks him to give a 'helping hand.' The trouble is, Johnny is strictly gay-for-pay and has a girlfriend, the steely Babylon (Roxanne Day), a headstrong stripper who has just found out she is pregnant.
The Fluffer is all about submission, obsession and voyeurism, and we, the spectators, are as much implicated in creating impossible iconic myths as are the apparently self-assured, narcissistic "stars." It owes as much to the films of the latterly despised Brian De Palma as it does to Michael Powell's vilified classic Peeping Tom. It is not short of ironic twists: questions emerge as to who is actually "fluffing" whom, whose "internalized" homophobia is the greater and whether we can create a reality from our fantasies.
This is an assured non-porn debut from porn director Wash West (ironically, he got into the sex industry while researching The Fluffer). And hopefully we will not have to wait another seven years for Glatzer's next film, as The Fluffer is a deceptively slight, multi-layered film of great substance. And it's a dream to look at. -- Andrew Copestake
The filmmakers set out to make a film driven by ideas and themes ... and accessible to a wider audience.
The Fluffer -- originally conceived as a modern-day retelling of the Narcissus and Echo Story -- succeeds on both counts. -- Steven Gallagher
ON THE OTHER HAND É
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
"This is a story about tackling internalized homophobia head-on and finding sexual liberation at a deep personal level. And as the fluffer is the one who loves, while the other maintains emotional distance, it is also a golden metaphor for inequality in relationships. So the myth of Narcissus, in love with his own reflection, takes a modern turn, as his two Echoes get tired of echoing and take over their own lives.
Amusing and charming, with a healthy dose of visual pleasure, The Fluffer is also soulful and serious. -- Kay Armatage
SILVERLAKE FILM FESTIVAL
LONDON LESBIAN AND GAY FILM FESTIVAL