The new film Geography Club is based on the first book of Brent Hartinger’s best selling Russell Middlebrook Series. The story centers around Russell Middlebrook as he navigates his way through his budding sexuality and the slings and arrows of high school. Russell (played by Cameron Deane Stewart) is the cutie pie boy next door type — smart, talented, and completely closeted. When a romantic encounter with football star Kevin (Justin Deely) sends Russell further into the closet, he finds he’s desperate for a place to just be himself.
That’s where the Geography Club comes in. Led by Min (Ally Maki), the group provides a safe haven for gay teens and those on the fringe. Also in the group are Terese (Nikki Blonsky) who happens to be Min’s girlfriend, and Ike (Glee’s Alex Newell) whose gayness increases on the daily by percentage. He’s “80% straight, 20% gay” when the film begins. Russell becomes pulled between his two worlds.
At first glance, Geography Club can come across as playing into old tropes about the gay high school experience. In 2013 it’s easy to forget that there are still a lot of young people who experience bullying and intimidation for their perceived sexuality or otherness. The film reminds me very much of an ABC Family show, which is actually a big compliment. Gay teens still need to see themselves reflected in modern entertainment, and this film is very thoughtful and full of talented actors.
Cameron Dean Stewart plays a very likable Russell, with just the right amount of sensitivity and strength. Justin Deely is capable in the role of Kevin, and fits the Jock persona to a T. The real joy in the movie, however, is the supporting cast. Ally Maki is delightful as Min, the driving force behind Geography Club. Nikki Blonsky, playing very much against type, is terrific as Nikki, a small role she makes the best of. Maki and Blonsky have an easy chemistry and their affectionate relationship is refreshing to see, even if it doesn’t take center stage. Alex Newell keeps growing as an actor and is a pleasure to see outside the walls of McKinley. As Russell’s girl crazy best friend Gunner, Andrew Caldwell is ridiculously loveable. His easy acceptance of Russell is a positive sign for the times, and hopefully an example to other young men in his shoes.
Sure, Geography Club has its stock characters — the bullying jocks, the mean girl, pretty, popular girl with the heart of gold — but so does every other teen movie ever made. It’s a tried and true formula that will hopefully attract a wider audience for this sweet, entertaining movie.
Geography Club opens in theatres and VOD this Friday, November 15.