SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | January 23, 2013
Director: Yen Tan
Writers: Yen Tan, David Lowery
Starring: Bill Heck, Marcus DeAnda, Amy Seimetz, John Merriman, Alfredo Maduro, Corby Sullivan, Bailey Bass, Heather Kafka, Richard C. Jones, Jonny Mars
Yen Tan’s Pit Stop reveals an Altmanesque finesse in developing so many characters equally. Adequately developing this many characters is certainly not an easy task — I have seen many more directors fail than succeed at doing this. Tan’s secret is that he views all of his characters as equals. More importantly, their personalities and personal histories are intriguing to Tan, and he passes that intrigue along to us.
In the process of telling us the parallel stories of Gabe (Bill Heck) and Ernesto (Marcus DeAnda), Pit Stop fleshes out this rural Texas town with a well-developed ensemble cast. On Gabe’s side of the narrative, we meet his ex-wife Shannon (Amy Seimetz) and their young daughter (Bailey Bass); and let us not forget Shannon’s hapless co-worker Winston (John Merriman). On Ernesto’s side of the narrative, we meet his ex-boyfriend Luis (Alfredo Maduro).
There is never any doubt that Gabe and Ernesto will meet, but we never know how or when. It could be at the local pit stop where they both shop or it could be at the lumber yard where Ernesto works; then again, as gay men stuck in a small town in a very red state, they might need to be introduced in a more discreet manner. Before their fateful meeting, we observe Gabe and Ernesto communicate with their respective exes while they also attempt to navigate the regional dating scene. Every gay man that they meet is like a lifeline to a world in which they can be themselves; otherwise, they must act “straight” as to not ruffle the feathers of the local townspeople.
The various gay relationships in Pit Stop are cleverly juxtaposed with the clumsy romance of Shannon and Winston. Tan’s intimate portrayals of the relationships establish a normalcy of the gay lifestyle. When two men hook up — or fall in love — it is no stranger than the connection between a man and a woman. This is where Pit Stop truly excels, in creating a world in which everyone is portrayed as normal, independent of their sexual orientation or skin color.
(Also check out our SXSW 2013 interview with Yen Tan and Marcus DeAnda.)