Dustin Lance Black seems to be the go to man for writing gay biopics. Hot off his Oscar-winning success with Milk comes Pedro, a film about AIDS campaigner and star of MTV’s Real Word: San Francisco, Pedro Zamora.
Pedro is told using multiple flashbacks and it shows the young Cuban immigrant winning a role on the Real World and how he and his family cope with HIV before, during and after he appeared on the hit reality show and became a major national celebrity.
This true life tale isn’t a very good film and the script offers nothing new to the biopic genre. The film was produced by Real World producers Bunim-Murray Productions and the company (and the show) are portrayed in an incredibly positive light throughout the film. Pedro (the film) comes across as an odd mixture of Ron Howard’s ED TV and Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia – part television satire and part AIDS drama-but it lacks the heart and entertainment factor that made these films work.
Alex Lynaz leads the unknown cast as the titular Pedro and he’s quite good in a role that gives him little to do but play upbeat and positive and then ill. Not a great variety of emotions when you’re playing a real person suffering from a terminal illness. The rest of the acting is of the usual television standard. It’s not that it’s bad – it’s just that it is a bit overly theatrical which loses any real emotion. The most entertaining character in the film is Puck (Matt Barr) the most obnoxious character in the Real World house – and he gets eliminated after about 10 minutes of screen time.
Nick Oceano’s film is visually very flat – the cinematography is very bright and colourful which contrasts with the dark and emotional themes underscoring the narrative, while the music has a lot of Cuban based riffs. The director doesn’t seem to be able to add any weight to the story and the romantic sub-plot featuring two of Pedro’s fellow Real World contestants Judd and Pam (Hale Appleton and Jenn Liu) appears to have be added to the film in order to help give the story more of a happy ending – something that life rarely has. Oceano’s disjointed narrative and faux interviews also appear to be a ruse to try and give the film something more than a made-for-TV feel. It’s a noble fight, but one that isn’t entirely successful.
Real video footage of all the characters is used at the end of the film and it does show that the filmmakers tried to get actors who looked like their real world counterparts. It’s just a shame about their acting. Pedro has a noble heart, but it ultimately fails to make compelling viewing. The clichéd script and flat visuals highlight the made for television quality and the film just can’t overcome this.
When a film is given an introduction by former US President Bill Clinton it really doesn’t need much more. The introduction is specific to Pedro Zamora himself and not the film – but it’s still a good touch.