Matt Trynauer’s Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is being hyped as a “deliciously scandalous cinema vérité documentary” about mostly gay sex in old Hollywoodland. Setting aside that it isn’t remotely cinema vérité, there’s little in the picture which is either secret or especially scandalous in 2018. That Cary Grant was queer is old news, and the “I just went gay all of a sudden!” clip from Bringing Up Baby has been old hat since The Celluloid Closet in 1995.
Instead, the picture is mostly a character study of Scotty Bowers, a man so stuck in the past that he’s neglecting his present, such as it is. In postwar Hollywood, Bowers worked at a gas station where he facilitated all manner of down-low pansexual hookups between necessarily closeted celebrities. But Bowers was a cog in the wheel, not the wheel itself, and while cogs are important, this one never feels like it’s worthy of a full-length documentary. Somewhat more interesting (and morbidly so) is how he’s become a hoarder, owning multiple houses filled with junk, only a small percentage of which is related to Hollywood’s so-called secret history. It also doesn’t help that the music often drowns out Bowers’ mumbled recollections about the old days, but in the end, it doesn’t feel like we’re missing much.
Opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.