Review: James Franco’s ‘Interior. Leather Bar.’ is minor to a fault

James Franco recreates excised dance and sex scenes from William Friedkin's "Cruising" in "Interior. Leather Bar." Credit: Strand Releasing
James Franco recreates excised dance and sex scenes from William Friedkin’s “Cruising” in “Interior. Leather Bar.”
Credit: Strand Releasing

‘Interior. Leather Bar.’
Directors: James Franco, Travis Matthews
Stars: James Franco, Val Lauren
Rating: NR
2 (out of 5) Globes

Much has been made of the fact that James Franco found time in between being a prolific actor, a writer of modernist short stories, a student, a teacher, a painter and presumably a budding caterer, too, to direct over a dozen films. One doesn’t want to assume too much, but being overextended shows in his own work, from the dicey adaptations of unadaptable novels (Cormac McCarthy’s “Child of God,” multiple William Faulkner films) to “Interior. Leather Bar,” co-made with Travis Matthews, which is so slender that if looked at from the right angle, it wouldn’t even exist.

Obsessed for vague reasons with the 40 minutes of dancing and oft-hardcore sex cut from William Friedkin’s notorious “Cruising” — in which cop Al Pacino goes undercover in the gay S&M scene of the turn of the ‘80s — Franco has created this quasi-experimental quasi-doc. Here, he guides a recreation of these scenes — not, to the disappointment of many of the rounded-up cast members, with him performing, but behind the camera (though sometimes in front of his). As in Friedkin’s original, a straight actor (Val Lauren) has been hired to descend into a world alien to much of the mainstream. And as with Pacino’s character in the film, his discomfort grows even as he finds himself reluctantly half-getting into it. In fact, the film is essentially an abstract remake of “Cruising,” only with the heterosexual shock at an outsider scene dialed way (but not entirely) down.

Throughout, Franco touches on (or, more accurately, lightly grazes) the evolution of LGBT issues, although he remains cagey about the one notion that would be an actual bombshell: his own fascination with homosexuality and what it has to say about gay rumors. (“This is the End” was more honest on the subject.) One can detect a bit of Norman Mailer (particularly his 1968 semi-narrative “Maidstone”), though Franco the public figure is a far more elusive and mysterious presence than the open (and openly egomaniacal) Mailer. The film is so thin that it almost seems to have meat on it, just because it seems like it should. But it doesn’t. What little you see is what little you get.


OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…


Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."


Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.


Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…


'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…


Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.


Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…


Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.


Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.


Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.


Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.


Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…


Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.


Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.


Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.


Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.