Touch me, I’m sick

It's sooo tragic when beautiful young white people die.

We Americans like our AIDS dramas uplifting, like a Wonderbra—a particularly apt comparison, come to think of it, for the new hot-betty-bedecked film Touch Me. Brigitte (Amanda Peet) is a young Los Angeles actress who finds out that her bisexual ex-boyfriend is dying of AIDS. Yet even as she discovers that she too is HIV-positive, her life takes off for the better. She’s been cast in a leading role in Speed the Plow, and has started a new relationship with Adam (Michael Vartan), her boss at the health club where she works.

Touch Me

directed by H. Gordon Boos

starring Amanda Peet, Michael Vartan,Greg Louganis

opens Friday at the Metro

See end of article for related links.

That health club is an important clue to the moral universe of this film. Characters aren’t the point here—neither is dialogue. All the film cares about is the faces of the actors. This is a film that is all about the extraordinary physical beauty of its cast, and nothing more. Amanda Peet and Michael Vartan prowl through the story like a pair of healthy animals. Their coats are shiny, their eyes bright. Their cheekbones become their justification for falling in love. This is love as survival—no, triumph—of the fittest. These two must couple or defy the laws of nature.

This beauty-as-power stuff makes for a pretty unsavory pudding when you consider that this is a film about illness. When Brigitte enters a support group for people with HIV, she’s accompanied by David, her ex’s lover, played by Olympian Greg Louganis (no mutt himself). Brigitte naturally chooses to befriend the prettiest woman in the group.

This emphasis on physical beauty lends a strange sense of justification not just to Adam and Brigitte’s affair, but to the film itself. We should care about these people because they’re beautiful (and white and heterosexual)—the film gives us no other reason to care. Here we have a melodramatist’s dream: We get stunning young bodies to look at, and to mourn. It’s the perfect LA AIDS movie, insisting that when a babe dies it’s more tragic than when some gnarled old drug addict kicks off.

To be fair, the film does a fine job of showing that HIV can be lived with—Brigitte overcomes her self-perception as “sick.” But in a sense, Brigitte’s mental victory over her illness merely reinforces the film’s

message of entitlement. Brigitte feels better than other AIDS patients because by Hollywood standards, she is better: She’s great-looking.

Related Links:

Greg Louganis page