“Hooked”
Director: Max Emerson
One hour, 32 minutes
Breaking Glass Pictures

Film reminds us what life is like for too many LGBTQ young people.

 

By David-Elijah Nahmod

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Newly out on DVD, Max Emerson’s “Hooked” is a powerful drama about a homeless New York street hustler. The film’s premiere at Newfest, New York’s LGBTQ film festival, was a benefit for the Ali Forney Center, a homeless shelter and advocacy group for LGBTQ kids in New York City. Director Emerson promises that half of the film’s profits will be donated to groups such as the Forney Center and GLAAD.

Jack (Conor Donnally) is living in a New York City youth hostel with his boyfriend, Tom (Sean Ormond). Jack, who has a penchant for getting into trouble because of his borderline personality disorder, hopes to build a better life for himself and Tom; he earns a living by turning tricks.

In the film’s opening scene Jack is punched by a coked-up client. Tom, meanwhile, is subjected to sexual harassment at the youth hostel.

Jack soon meets Ken (Terrance Murphy), a well-to-do closet case who lives with his wife and infant son in Connecticut. Ken is struggling against his “urges” and seeks counsel from a priest.

Even though they have no reason to trust each other, Jack agrees to accompany Ken on a trip to Miami. While there, he finds out about the wife Ken had lied about. An enraged Jack, who thought that Ken might be someone he could trust, steals Ken’s gun and storms out onto the streets of Miami, where he ends up meeting some very seedy characters who put his life at risk.

Desperate to get back to New York and to Tom, Jack accepts an offer from a porn producer who also hooks him up with a violent client. Things go from bad to worse.

Emerson does a good job of illustrating the horrors that homeless LGBTQ youth face every day. Scenes where Jack is beaten are powerful and disturbing, as are the sequences in which Tom is sexually harassed. It’s not the life that either of them chose. In one heartbreaking scene, Jack leaves his estranged mom a voicemail (she had thrown him out of the house).

As title cards at the end of the film note, LGBTQ youth are far more likely than straight youth to end up homeless, be sexually abused, develop severe drug addiction or commit suicide.

“Hooked” underscores these issues.

“I miss the days when you made everything OK,” Jack tearfully tells his mom.

The cast does good work. Conor Donnally is particularly convincing as Jack, who tries to cover up his unhappiness underneath a veneer of sarcasm. Terrance Murphy is equally good as Ken, a handsome, middle-aged man who genuinely comes to care for Jack and wants to help him. Ken is torn between his feelings for Jack and his love for his family; his marriage ends when his wife finds out what’s going on. Ken’s wife is no villain. She’s a nice woman who wants her husband to be exclusive to their wedding vows. When she realizes that he cannot, she leaves.

But it’s Jack and Tom who form the heart of “Hooked.” They struggle to survive under conditions that are not of their own making. The two actors have wonderful chemistry together as they plan for the future they dream of, make love and worry about each other. Tom is particularly concerned for Jack, who cannot seem to avoid trouble and often makes things worse with his own actions.

“Hooked” is a film that needs to be seen. Many who judge kids on the street, who think they “want” to be there, might reconsider after seeing the film. Without preaching, it urges us to care for our LGBTQ youth.

Even today, with acceptance for the LGBTQ community at an all-time high, there are still thousands and thousands of parents who refuse to accept their Queer kids. What happens to Jack and Tom could happen to anyone.

Look for “Hooked” on DVD and video-on-demand platforms now.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.