Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss (1998) is an imaginative, breezy piece that was a surprise hit in the U.S. The movie was inspired by the director’s love of William Wyler’s drama The Heiress.
The story: Twenty-six-year-old struggling photographer Billy is broke and his boyfriend Fernando has cheated on him. A hopeless romantic, Billy is looking for love. While having coffee with his gal-pal George, he falls for coffee-shop waiter and musician Gabriel. He doesn’t know if Gabriel is gay or straight but hires him as his model for a photo shoot. Gabriel says he has a girlfriend in San Francisco but sends out mixed signals. As they become friends, Billy wonders Is he or isn’t he?
You’ll recognize Sean Hayes for his role as struggling actor Jack McFarland in Will & Grace. Hayes starred in Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss before playing Jack and in some ways the characters have a lot in common. However, he brings a lot more depth to the character of Billy Collier and there are many heart-rending moments as he tries to tell Gabriel how he feels about him. With excellent comic timing his perfect portrayal of Billy is restrained and thoughtful.
The movie doesn’t feature any major stars and was made for little money but that doesn’t hold it back from being a charming and modern gay rom-com. It shows us that gay and straight people are very alike when it come to matters of the heart. The clever script contains lots of humorous one-liners and the charismatic cast do well. It has the usual romantic comedy tropes but it still has a lot to commend it.