Alan Cumming, as frustrated artist and former AIDS activist Sam Cooper, frequently confers with the dead: the idea of the queer community he once depended on and who he thinks has been replaced by apathetic millennials, the dreams of what that community might have looked like today and his old friend William (David Drake), who died of AIDS in the '90s. Sam hovers over a timeline on his computer, his progress on a video installation moving at a glacial pace. A third of the film is directly about Sam's relationship to one specific art project, a period tone poem shot in shabby DV, and it's in these interactions between life and death — ACT UP posters and pins mirroring clean digital and old DV -- that Vincent Gagliostro's film After Louie is at its strongest.
Though the film posits trauma, of the queer sort, as something to constantly work through and reconcile with, writer/director Gagliostro presents Sam's reconciliation with trauma, outside the immediate context of the video installation, as unexpectedly tedious. Sam's no angel, sanctimonious and oblivious, and the broad stories outside the commanding performances of Cumming and Drake -- a younger lover and older boyfriend; friends dying; friends getting married -- yield paltry returns. Its subject matter is interesting, and it's right to remind viewers of the need for different generations of queer people to communicate, but After Louie is burdened by narrative and dialogue cliches that undermine its emotional appeal. And how often is it that a fake movie within a movie is better than the movie that it's in?