Before that invitation happens, however, Paul is mugged on the subway and roughed up before being saved by Lee (McCaul Lombardi), a multi-tattooed tough guy. Lee tells Paul he’s lucky the muggers didn’t rape him before unleashing one of the many homophobic slurs we’ll hear in “Port Authority.” Now, I’ve lived less than three miles from Manhattan for 47 of my 51 years on this Earth, and I’ve yet to hear of a string of muggings that became homosexual rapes just for the hell of it. No matter, any excuse to throw a couple more instances of “f—ot” on the soundtrack will do. At one point, Lee stares in Paul’s eyes before tending to his post-subway fight injuries, holding it long enough to imply the two might kiss. Paul pushes him away, practically yelling “ME STRAIGHT!” like a caveman.
Lee gets Paul a shady job where he and his white pals bang on the doors of Black and brown people who either are to be evicted for violating rules or have items to be repossessed. “Immigration!” they yell before instigating whatever the shakedown requires. Paul doesn’t ask any questions—he’s too busy bonding with his bros. Watching this crew intimidate renters leaves a bitter taste for a film that’s supposed to be a love story, especially when the guy you’re supposed to root for to get the girl is part of the gang. Did I mention that Wye and her family of competitors live where the landlord wants to evict them for having too many tenants in one apartment? You can see where this is going.
In the film’s defense, Paul’s reaction when he finds out Wye is trans is not what you’d expect. It’s well written, at least in its initial moments. It turns violent, but also not in the way you’re expecting. (To be honest, I can’t explain why this particular beating was necessary.) Paul even continues to pursue the relationship, which he hides from his macho dude-bros at least until Wye twists his arm to meet them. Unlike most films of this ilk, Wye has more than one dimension and Bloom gives her sass, personality and intelligence. In her best scene, she subtly plays out the silent realization that Paul not only has lied to her, but to his friend as well. You can sense her sadness, anger and fear that the situation might turn ugly. I wanted more moments like that, where I saw Wye through her own prism.