I remember reading the book “We the Animals’ is based on, but for the life of me I could not remember anything about it plot. (I had to refresh my memory by reading my reading my review of it ) Now comes Jeremiah Zagar’s film from te same source. And at first, I really wasn’t feeling the film. It has a gauzy dream-like feel, like it was filmed via a vintage Instagram filter. I also thought the style was a bit self-indulgent – some have compared it to Terence Malick’s. But after a while, I got used to its pace, and its unique editing. and also by the good performances, especially by Evan Rosado, who plays Jonah, the youngest child. Jonah has just turned ten years old, but the film explores how at that age, one starts to explore their sexuality. At first I was a little taken aback by this (at ten?) but then this really feels very true. It is at that stage wherein you really do not know how to sort your feelings. In the film, he starts to develop an attraction to a blond kid, and it is clear that he starts to both acknowledge and fear his feelings (Rosado is particularly good in these scenes) I just read in my review of the book that I was a bit surprised that it was filed under gay fiction, and I have the same question here – is this considered a ‘gay’ film? But then does that genre still exist? The gay here is very subtle, almost an aside, but still very significant in how the whole plot is explored. I don’t know if I even like the film, but it certainly challenged me.
Closing out Pride month, I am writing about, for me, the best ‘gay’ film since last year’s ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ Written and Directed by Ofir Raul Graizer, ‘The Cakemaker’ is one of those movies that got to me. After seeing the movie, I wanted to just get home and think about it in silence. It’s the story of a German baker Thomas (Tim Kalkhof, looking like a German Jonathan Groff) who falls in love with an Israeli businessman who travels monthly to Berlin. When the businessman suddenly dies in a car accident, Thomas flies to Jerusalem and gets involved in the life of the man’s widow Anat (Sarah Adler)
This is a great example of how grief ties people together. There is a lot of softness and delicacy on the film, and I was engrossed from the first frame. It speaks to me about how a connection (or disconnection) can make a lasting impact in one’s life, and the different ways we deal with grief. Thomas changes Anat’s life for he better, and while there’s a certain plot point in there that I theoretically did not believe in, thee are fine actors that I swallowed it whole. Kalkhof is fantastic here, muted and passive, yet expressing powerful emotions in a nod and a glance, and Adler a formative match, vulnerable, determined, sympathetic. It shows us realities in modern day Israel – the dichotomy of being religious and liberal, of tradition and acceptance. By the end, I was sobbing, and I didn’t know why. Of course, I knew it was because of the sheer beauty of the film.
I watch a lot of these gay-themed movies, and even though I am glad they get made and improve queer visibility, some of them just irritate me to the core. For the month of June, I am trying to feature as much gay content in my writings here, and was looking forward to seeing ‘Ideal Home,’ if only because I am a Paul Rudd fan – he can most of the time do no wrong for me. Well, he still displays infinite charm here in this film, directed by Andrew Fleming. But his charm is not enough to save this sinking ship. In here he plays Paul, who is partnered with Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and out of the blue, a kid shows up in their doorstep, Angel, who is Erasmus’ grandchild. Hilarity ensues, right, as this gay couple tries to raise a kid.
But my main problem with the film is that the characters of Erasmus and Paul are so thin that we only get ‘personality’ instead of real human beings. They fight and bicker and insult each other, and it’s like being inside a car of a fighting couple: unpleasant, awkward, and the sense that you just want to get out of there. I hated my time with these people and could care less if they succeed with raising the child. Plus, the child is entitled and spoiled so really, who are you going to root for in this film?
Fleming based this story on his experiences in raising a child. Surely, his own life is more textured than the thin plot here. I was disappointed with this picture. Coogan and Rudd try to save it with charm, but that only goes so far. I try to rid my life of toxic people, and these characters are as toxic as they get.
I wanted to really like Chris Miera’s Ein Weg (Paths) and it took me a while to do so. It’s painfully slow, and I am not really averse to slow films, but it’s opening chapter could lose a lot of people, and it almost lost me. The film is a story about a couple. Andreas and Martin (Mike Hoffman and Matthias Reinhardt) who are separating after decades of being together. You can feel the intimacy, but not really much if the pain…until you get to the second chapter and Miera shows you how they got together and fell in love. This is one of those instances wherein editing makes a difference – you do not feel much empathy for the couple in the beginning part of the film because you do not have anything to go by. The slowness of the film really felt like a burden, and there were numerous times I thought about abandoning the film. But I finished it, and I wish I felt it was more satisfying.
When I first saw the trailer of ‘Alex Strangelove,’ I thought it was very similar to ‘Love Simon.’ in that it is about a high school student grasping with their sexual orientation. But Berlanti’s film is about dealing with being gay after the fact that one has accepted himself. “Alex Strangelove’ is the film right before you get to that place – it’s about the questioning and eventual acquiescence to that same fact. I think the two film are worlds apart, and ‘Alex Strangelove’ is just as good, just as entertaining, just as touching.
Alex (Daniel Doheny) thinks he is straight, and as a matter of fact has a girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein) but he questions this when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale) a guy who is unapologetically gay. Maybe this points to the fact that he is unable to have sex with his girlfriend (we learn later on that the suspicion has already started) and when he does, things go in a disastrous manner. Written and directed by Craig Johnson, this film is a lot of fun in that silly, goofball way – I am sure it will attract its teen/tween target market set. But snobs like me will find a lot to like about it, and for old farts like me, it gives me a window to how kids nowadays think: sexual orientation is still a big deal, but the outcome nary matters to them anymore – it’s just the ‘getting there’ that provides stress. Doheny is perfect here with his wonderful neurotic confusion – you feel and empathize, and cringe with him when he makes his misguided choices. I thought the film was much raunchier than I thought it would be. It’s certainly racier than the squeaky clean ‘Love Simon.’ I totally enjoyed this, and highly recommend it. And as Pride Month comes upon us, I applaud Netflix for its dedication. I know this will reach a big audience, and it’s just great to be a kid these days with all these films to have access to. There’s a lot of hate nowadays, but love still comes out on top, it seems.
Another confirmation that I am ancient – I haven’t an idea who Max Emerson is – apparently he is a very popular YouTube personality, and for some reason he has directed a feature, called ‘Hooked,’ and the film actually brings me back to a time when a lot of ‘gay’ films used to be about male prostitutes. I am not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, by the way. I enjoy a good male prostitute movie.
But this one, I kind of did not. It’s clunky, for sure, and you can see Emerson’s greenness as a director. Conor Donnaly is cute and not too bad – his hysterics need to be reigned in, but it never really crosses the ‘annoying’ territory. There’s a ‘Pretty Woman’-ish vignette in the middle part that was fun until it felt it had to go to ‘serious’ mode. I think that may be the problem with this, Emerson felt like it is an important issue-based movie when it could have been more fun. There was a point towards the latter part where I got very bored by it. At least, though, we did not get a ‘straight’ character gay-baiting – the hustler here is in a committed gay relationship. That’s progress, I guess.
It is always refreshing to find gay coming-of-age flicks, and I am always fascinated how our stories are always similar, but set in our different geographical and cultural elements. ‘Center Of My World’ (Die Mitte der Welt) is set in rural Germany and is about Phil,(Louis Hoffman) a teenager who experiences his first love when another kid from out of town (Nicholas, played by Jannik Schumann) moves in. But Director Jkob Erwa’s film is a little more than that. Adapted from the German novel by Andreas Steinhofel, it also deals with Phil’s familial issues – he grew up in an ancestral castle-like house without a father, and his sister can talk to animals. I didn’t like that part of the story. to be honest, and wished it had centered more about the tender romance between Phil and Nicholas. When they got torn apart at the end, I was quite touched, although, really, their story did not have much depth. I credit more the performances of the actors, especially Schumann who has a wide-eyed vulnerability that expresses more than the screenplay gave him. I also thought the film was a little overlong, with self-indulgent shots that are unnecessary. Your mileage may vary here, but for me, it’s a marginal thumbs up – mostly for the acting.