If you are unfamiliar with the term, you might assume that The Fluffer is a movie about a hotel attendant, perhaps something light and, well, fluffy—along the lines of a movie like Maid in Manhattan.
However, this movie, co-directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, actually centers on gay pornography, with some forays into (heterosexual) exotic dancing.
The titular “fluffer” here is a young man named Sean, played by Michael Cunio. His job is to perform oral sex on male porn actors, to ensure that they remain up and ready, so to speak, during shooting. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The film actually starts with Johnny Rebel, a gay porn celebrity who is actually heterosexual. Sean accidentally stumbles onto one of Johnny’s movies, is instantly drawn to him, tries to join the world of porn in order to pursue him, and winds up as his fluffer. The trouble is that Johnny is not only straight but extremely shallow and narcissistic (the film actually makes several clever references to the mythological character of Narcissus, just to make sure we get this). Having these two (Johnny and Sean) as the main characters is actually a good way to build a story structure, since we get to view their milieu from the perspectives of a two opposites: Johnny is straight, successful, and a veteran of the industry, while Sean is gay, has lower status, and is a neophyte.
This film’s accuracy as a portrait of the porn industry (assuming it is even trying to be one) is debatable. However, it certainly does look convincing, given its documentary-like style. Slick camera work is used sparingly, confined largely to fantasy sequences. Aficionados of pornography will also relish the cameos and walk-ons by various real porn stars.
The portrayal of Sean, as written by Wash Westmoreland, is rather interesting. He seems mostly like a smart, nice, young gay man who might have a bright future ahead of him. However, he unfortunately falls into the cinematic cliché of falling in unrequited love with a straight man. Actually, even after Sean is offered a chance at romantic happiness with another man, he still prefers the selfish, elusive Johnny. People aware of their film history might have disquieting flashbacks to old and not-so-old movies where self-loathing or villainous gay men pursue straight objects of desire. This trope is so common that you see it everywhere from Spartacus to The Talented Mr. Ripley. You might even detect traces of it in the Harry Potter films. However, we can argue that Westmoreland’s writing decision is not a bad one: the legacy of internalized homophobia is still present today, both onscreen and off.
It must also be remembered that The Fluffer is a comedy. Westmoreland and Glatzer ensure that the scenes are stuffed with different kinds of humor from the bawdiest to the very dry and subtle. Some viewers might find this disturbing. After all, many actors in pornography are underage, forced into it by poverty, victims of human trafficking, or some combination of the above. However, does every film about pornography have to be perpetually dark and serious? Not necessarily. The industry, after all, is far from homogeneous, and participants can have vastly different experiences of it.
All in all, this is not just a look at an intriguing topic, but a good story about interesting characters.
Year : 2001
Director : Wash Westmoreland, Richard Glatzer
Writer : Wash Westmoreland
Starring: Michael Cunio, Scott Gurney, Roxanne Day, Taylor Negron
Country: United States
Running time: 95 mins.
Genre: mixed (romantic comedy, drama)