Elliot, the immensely sympathetic hero of the immensely enjoyable indie film Elliot Loves, is on that most quixotic quest of all: To find love.
Filmmaker Terracino's dramedy, screens Thursday night at the Ritz East, as the opening night film of the region's 18th annual Philadelphia Qfest.
A witty, intelligent and inventive picture, Elliot Loves captures Elliot's demanding search for the perfect boyfriend, using film, cutout animation, traditional cel animation, music, and flashbacks.
The film alternates between the Dominican American New Yorker's present as a 21-year-old club habitue and his past as a sensitive, confused and lost 9-year-old boy whose world consists of his young, beautiful single mom (a radiant Elena Goode) and a parade of her sleazy, abusive boyfriends.
Teen actor Quentin Araujo is bubbly and exuberant as the young Elliot, who seems at ease with his homosexuality — but entirely confused about the nature of love. His mother desperately clings to each boyfriend, hoping he will somehow raise her family from poverty.
Played with ease and naturalism by Fabio Costaprado, the older Elliot is a restless, wiry man-child with an unruly, charming swirl of curly hair. An eternally wide-eyed, naive optimist, he jumps into the most casual flirtation as if it were a marriage proposal.
Trouble is, Elliot seeks love in a world where the only thing on offer is a quick hookup. And his lack of experience leads him to make one bad decision after another.
When he catches an older hunk named Joe (Monte Bezell) making eyes at him across a dance floor, Elliot veritably explodes with joy, glee, anticipation.
Terracino beautifully captures Elliot's boundless enthusiasm in several animated sequences which pop off the screen with loud colors and fast music.
When Joe takes Elliot home, the ecstatic hero imagines he's found the guy. That is, until Joe's boyfriend walks in the next morning and offers to cook the lovers breakfast.
Unsurprisingly, Elliot crashes into despair at each rejection. Then, like a yo-yo, he bounces back up and back out into the New York gay club scene.
Elliot's dread of rejection, his tendency to glom onto every available guy and hold on to him for dear life begins to make sense as we learn more about his childhood. Will he learn how to overcome his neuroses? The film leaves that question open.
Terracino doesn't preach or pretend to teach: This isn't therapy but a sweet character study brimming with life. Elliot Loves is a terrific example of the best in microbudget filmmaking which will appeal to gay and straight audiences alike.