The Rebel's Sidekick

Sal,” James Franco’s biopic about the groundbreaking actor Sal Mineo, comes with a large warning label. Although set to open in theaters on November 1, the film was shelved for nearly two years, reportedly because of its contemplative (read: slow) pacing. Yet Mineo’s story is packed with drama. Born in the Bronx, the son of a coffin maker, he became a teen idol in 1955 when he costarred with James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Mineo played the sensitive sidekick “Plato,” now seen as the first gay teenager in a Hollywood movie, and he was also early to go public about his own homosexuality. “Sal,” starring Val Lauren, focuses on the actor’s final days as he struggled for a comeback, before being stabbed to death during an attempted robbery in 1976. If the movie proceeds at a leisurely pace, the same can’t be said of Franco, an acting and directing powerhouse credited with more than a dozen films in 2013 alone. In this one, if nothing else, he has picked a strong subject. Mineo is tragic, but he’s inspiring as well: a pioneer of gay pride who chose honesty long before “coming out” entered the everyday lexicon. — John Birmingham

Tags: movies

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