Lynn Shelton :: USA :: 2009 : 1h35
Ben (Mark Duplass) is living a quiet life in Seattle with his wife Anna, when his old university friend Andrew (Joshua Leonard)shows up, as the prodigal son. Andrew has been bumming around for ten years in hippy semi-artistic circles, and the two men look at each other as different versions of what they could have done with their lives. From a combination of an “I’m free, you’re not” kind of argument and an amateur porn-as-art festival, comes the idea of the two of them having homosexual sex on film. Although the idea repulses them, neither wants to give in to the other, for the risk of losing face at the challenge.
The idea of a homosexual challenge is both very silly and potentially amusing, but here we are left stranded at the former. And it has silliness written all over it. It has even been shot in a messy way – with an unstable, low quality camera which is sometimes out of focus. The script follows suit, by seeming to be mostly based on improvisation judging by its simplicity. The film is actually the 20 minutes or so in a hotel room (where they are to have sex), the rest could just as easily have been scrapped. The whole amateur approach could have been an added value for a film which needs the “fear-of-gay discomfort” element to work, but we never actually get to some value, to be able to consider any more added on.
The characters act (and dress) as if they are 15 years old, with a matching insecurity, no sophistication (although supposedly with an education), teen-style pushing each other around and with no direction in their lives. They are just permanently uncomfortable with themselves in relation to others.
Ben is supposed to be living a dull bourgeois life, with a wife and house, and Andrew the adventurous drugs and swingers life, but neither are a mentionable success. If being married and having a house is to be considered boring (!?) then the movie could have shown them sitting silently in front of a TV game show, with him taking a grey commuter train to work in the morning and Anna pruning the roses under the auspicious eye of the elderly neighbours. So to speak. Just saying that he has a house and a wife is meaningless.
If the contrast is supposed to be with his country-hopping lost friend Andrew, then surely Andrew should have received a little more credit himself, rather than just a pretension. Already in the introductory scenes, Andrew is shown giving an inappropriate kitsch gift followed by a story of his work at an artistic community in Mexico, which we can only assume to be a failure as he left. Despite his talk about art, he does not produce anything or show any understanding of it. That leaves us with sex and drugs. His uncommitted swingers life should have given him an ease in sexual relations, but even there he does not excel, or have any noteworthy advantage to justify a superiority. The character is just shown as a loveable loser. The contrast does not work.
Basically, we are left watching two cowardly superficial characters fail. If they had wanted to succeed they could have brought along some alcohol. Or some drugs. Or perhaps eased themselves into it with something more accessible first. Or perhaps they should have just set themselves some more constructive goals, closer to their heart to try to grow up. As the director should have done. And remember that this production is marketed as a comedy. Perhaps something funny could have been squashed in there somewhere in too…