Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Straight Up: Movie Review

Thoughtful, tender and absolutely hilarious examination of love and sexuality.
Straight Up is the romantic comedy that every gay, bi, pan, straight or questioning person has been waiting for. It has a very minimalistic atmosphere that can make it hard to get into, but the dialogue very quickly makes up for that. This is such a brilliantly funny and brilliantly creative take on the typical romantic comedy, that I’m certain I can’t write a review worthy of its screenplay, but I’m going to try anyways. 2019

Directed by: James Sweeney

Screenplay by: James Sweeney

Starring: James Sweeney, Katie Findlay

It opens with Todd (James Sweeney) explaining to his friends, Meg – an overly-sexualized model and Ryder – an openly gay pessimist, that he’s not gay. We have to pause there because within the opening minutes, writer and director Sweeney has already done the opposite of a gay romantic comedy by not coming out. But wait, it gets better. While Todd thinks that he might actually be straight, an exasperated Ryder thinks he’s just going back in the closet. A fascinating dichotomy between how the main character sees himself and how his friends see himself. Todd did have two good reasons that really resonated for why he might not be gay: one, schoolmates have called him faggot since the second grade – before he could even explore for himself whether or not he was; and two, he’s tried sex with gay men and didn’t like it.

I’m assuming, like me, that you’re already laughing at this point and we haven’t even met the romantic comedy counterpart, a perfectly cast and perfectly named Rory (Katie Findlay). She’s an aspiring actress that has gotten used to and accepting of Gilmore Girls jokes. She is the equal of Todd -- very neurotic, intelligent, and linguistically combative. They become fast friends and evolve into a romantic pairing as naturally as one could possibly write it.

As any avid cinephile knows, romantic comedies can’t be sweet and romantic all the time. There has to be drama, a legitimate obstacle that could threaten Todd and Rory’s happiness. The fact that Todd is either gay, or at best, questioning and unsure of his sexuality puts a damper on their relationship, which, unsurprisingly, Todd’s friends don’t support despite agreeing that Rory is awesome (seriously, all future casting agents, Katie Findlay is awesome). They’re rightfully worried that he’ll break Rory’s heart. She’s hardened and sarcastic but there’s an underlying tenderness that makes her so easy to love.

Let’s backtrack to that part about Todd and Rory’s happiness. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that they need to be happy to be in a successful relationship. However, Todd and Rory are deeply unhappy people when they first meet. Todd is very lonely, confused about who he is, and thinks that it’s too hard for anyone to love him. Rory is unsuccessful, lonely, and desperate for family. They’re certainly happier together, but that might not be enough.

Straight Up is a thoughtful, tender, and absolutely hilarious examination of love and sexuality. There’s so much going on beneath the surface, and the surface itself is just an endless stream of witty dialogue. Oh and let’s note that James Sweeney is a first-time feature filmmaker. The few issues I may have had can be easily fixed: Netflix, give him more money! Everybody else, watch this movie.