'Interior. Leather Bar.' Reviews Are In: How Did James Franco Do?

Franco's new film is 'self-aware and self-deprecating,' critics say.

Remember that time James Franco made a movie about S&M and gay sex? Now it's time to see it!

"Interior. Leather Bar." had its premiere in the New Frontiers program at the Sundance Film Festival last January, and now, a year later, the film debuts in select theaters.

Franco co-stars as himself in the documentary-style movie, in which he attempts to recreate 40 minutes of ultra-explicit footage deleted from 1980's "Cruising," a psychological thriller starring Al Pacino. It's about filmmaking as a creative process, the experience of an actor and, yes, the depiction of hardcore gay sex.

In case anyone got beyond the words "James Franco" and "gay sex" and still needs to know more before rushing out to buy a ticket to the Franco-directed flick (co-directed and written by Travis Mathews), MTV News has a roundup of the reviews to gauge how Franco's project was received.

Surprise, Surprise

"Franco's work often deals with issues of public image and exposure — as 'Filmspotting: SVU' podcasters Matt Singer and Alison Willmore recently observed, a frequent Franco character in film and on TV is a fictionalized version of himself — and with 'Interior. Leather Bar.' Franco examines Pacino's journey while adding another entry in his ever-expanding catalog of Things You Wouldn't Expect a Major Movie Star To Do." — Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

Something to Say

"Like the Oscars and Oz, any given project need only give this star something to do. Franco, smugly po-faced throughout, regards his efforts here as nothing short of noble, as if his ineffectual gestures toward the 'crisis' of heteronormativity promised anything but self-satisfaction. Rarely has liberal guilt animated self-righteous invective so vigorously." — Calum Marsh, The Village Voice

Is He?

"Mathews (an openly queer director who shook up the LGBT fest circuit with his art-porn feature 'I Want Your Love') ... focuses on Franco as the pic's more marketable meta-subject. Recognizing how the 'is he or isn't he' debate has dogged nearly all of Franco's recent art projects (beginning with his blatantly homoerotic NYU student short, 'The Feast of Stephen'), Mathews attempts to shift the attention onto Franco and his creative process." — Peter Debruge, Variety

The Second Coming

"Even when Franco is prattling on about his burning desire to liberate moviegoers from their psychosexual chains — as if he's the handsome film star equivalent of Lawrence of Arabia or the guy from 'Avatar,' a straight messiah-liberator helping the impotent queer nation touch hearts and minds — it somehow works. It's self-aware and self-deprecating." — Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com

Let's Be Real

"Offering a lower nutjob-entertainment factor than Franco's recent festival exploit 'Francophrenia,' but more credible as an artistic statement, the film isn't as provocative as some may expect, which will probably suit the actor's fans just fine. (Speaking of Francophiles, let's get it out of the way: Franco himself participates in no makeouts — gay or straight, explicit or chaste — here. He doesn't even take his shirt off.)" — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter

Will you see "Interior. Leather Bar."?