Moviegoers familiar with Charles Busch's outrageous gender-bending stage parodies, such as Psycho Beach Party and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, will be pleasantly surprised by his feature directorial debut. A Very Serious Person is a sweet-natured coming-of-age tale, loosely based on director Charles Busch's life, which touches on profound issues of cultural identity and self-acceptance. Making a rare appearance out of drag, Busch (who co wrote the screenplay with frequent collaborator Carl Andress) steals the show as Jan, an effete Danish male nurse, who is charged to look after a terminally-ill woman (Polly Bergen) and her 12-year-old grandson over the course of a summer at the Jersey Shore. The distant and reserved Jan soon develops a friendship with the boy, whose love of show tunes and old Hollywood movies may presage his emerging sexuality. Feeling protective, Jan tries to put a damper on the lad's enthusiasms, aware that a very different life awaits him in Florida at summer's end, and that he had best start acting less like an embryonic queen and more like a "serious person." Thus, the film becomes less about the boy's encounters with homophobia and more about how the gay adults around him try to cocoon him from its effects. Newcomer P.J. Verhoest shines as the younger half of this charming duo, while Busch, the auteur, makes an effortless transition from high camp to conventional comedy-drama.
Director's Statement Collapse
For my first film as a director, after a career of writing predominantly film-genre
parody, I wanted very much to explore more personal material. Following my
mother's death when I was seven, I was raised in Manhattan by my mother's older
sister, my Aunt Lillian. She was an extraordinary woman who was determined not
to shape me into some accepted fantasy. Instead, she gave me every opportunity to develop what was unique in me. Her spirit infuses both leading characters: Mrs. A and her male nurse, Jan. In this film, I wanted to explore how parental figures
give themselves the impossible task of trying to create a young person free of
emotional baggage. No matter how hard they try, their own complexities intrude on their best intentions. One can only hope that the child will find his own strength and will ultimately forgive.
About the Director(s)Collapse
Charles Busch is the author and star of such plays as The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset, and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. His play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife won the Outer Critics' Circle John Gassner Award, as well as a Tony® nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film adaptations of his plays Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter winning him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Mr. Busch received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement. For two seasons, he appeared on the HBO series Oz and is the subject of a feature length documentary, The Lady in Question is Charles Busch, which premiered at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival. In 2003, he directed a short subject, Personal Assistant, for Showtime. A Very Serious Person marks his feature debut as a director.