Thursday, July 20, 2023

What's My Name Again?: Movie Review

What’s My Name Again? Is about Bo Baxter (Ryan Winn) except he soon finds out that Baxter isn’t really his last name. His birth father Robert Olaffson has been mostly out of the picture since he was born, his first step-father Scott Baxter was supposed to adopt him (and as far as everyone knows, he did adopt him) except his mother never filed the adoption papers, so his name isn’t really his name.   2023

Directed by: Spencer Zender

Screenplay by: Spencer Zender

Starring: Ryan Winn, Allison Byrnes, Nick Schultz, and Talia Mychael Blaney

Now Bo is up to step-father #3 and on the eve of his 18th birthday is told that he needs to pick a name. Thus begins Bo’s coming-of-age journey in search of a father figure, an identity and a name as he swims and surfs along the Californian coast.

What’s My Name Again? Is a very indie movie, there’s definitely some inexperience in the production, but it has a strong sense of style, identity and knows what story it is telling. I want to start with the characters because they are all well written, so clearly identified, that I was able to pick up on each backstory to Bo’s development before they even told me. And the exact same thing goes for Bo’s best friend Griff (Nick Shultz) and Bo’s girlfriend Alea (Talia Mychael Blaney).

Bo is a star swimmer, setting records in the pool, and he has an ego to match (quick sidebar: it’s not easy to take an egotistical lead character and make him thoroughly sympathetic but that’s exactly what actor Ryan Winn and screenwriter Spencer Zender have done). But when Bo’s out of the pool, he’s up to any number of less than ideal things for a teenage athlete: getting high at home off his mother’s weed, getting in fights with random strangers because he has unchecked rage and likes to punch things, or pissing off his girlfriend’s father because he sees him as low-class.

Every part of Bo’s identity has been carefully constructed in this movie. The upbringing by a single mom and three abrasive step-dads who all think way too highly of themselves is sure to leave its mark on 17-year-old Bo. Most of the problems are with the supposed adults. He calls his mother Karen rather than ‘mom’ because she obviously isn’t one, she makes inappropriate jokes around, is always high or drunk around him and clearly hasn’t matured at all in the seventeen years since she had him. She’s unlikable and then combine that with a weak actor who plays her as inconsistently as possible, and the movie is way better when she’s off the screen. The exact same thing goes for the three step-dads and the grandparents.

As much as I like Bo, Griff and Alea, the adults really bring the movie down. The movie tries to tell its story more comedically than dramatically, which is probably a good choice in general, but the comedy here, is pretty forced. Just a ton of awkward sex jokes, which are awful when said by the adults, and only slightly less cringe-worthy when said by the teens. The drama is appropriately weaved in but the film’s not as funny as it’s trying to be.

There’s a few production issues, primarily with an unnecessary score in some scenes and then a lack of a score in other scenes where it’s noticeably absent. There’s also an edit from present day Bo turning around to watch kid Bo as a child which was really distracting.

The movie has its issues but it clearly starts with a strong script, a very dynamic lead actor, and takes Bo on a reasonably interesting journey.