Film Review: Call Me By Your Name

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Call Me By Your Name is another film on the Oscar watch list that I was not keen to watch. In fact, in this case, I would go so far as to say I was morally opposed to watching it. After all, the premise of the film; a seventeen-year-old boy has a summer-time love affair with a twenty-four-year old man in 1980s Northern Italy; seems a little at odds with all of the activist movements going on in Hollywood at the moment, and indeed around the world. Now, passionate fans of the film, of which there are many, will immediately shout me down with: “It is a consensual relationship!”, “Elio is very mature for a seventeen-year-old!”, “His parents are supportive of the relationship!”, “But the film is so transcendent and sensual, it is a coming of age tale, it is not perverse or predatory at all”. Yet these same fans who proclaim Elio is mature beyond his years, intelligent and sophisticated, gush over his adorable innocence when it comes to matters of the heart. Aren’t we now entering dangerous territory when an older man enters the fray?

Elio

But all that aside, I promised myself I would give it a chance. After all, I was perfectly capable of enjoying Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita for its literary merits even if its controversial subject matter didn’t sit well with me. And for heaven’s sake, my all-time favourite female protagonist Buffy the Vampire Slayer is dating a 242-year-old vampire at the age of sixteen. That opens all sorts of doors that I have never cared to explore, but they’re there. I gave Daniel Day Lewis a fair shot, I can give this movie a fair shot.

First of all, it’s beautiful. “Somewhere in Northern Italy” as the opening credits set the scene, should get an acting credit because it’s probably the most enchanting part of the movie. Our young protagonist Elio (played by Timothee Chalamet) lives here in his family’s 17th century villa with his mom and dad, who is an eminent professor specialising in Greco-Roman culture. (I got this from IMDB. I’m assuming the person who wrote it got it from the book upon which the movie is based, authored by Andre Aciman, as this is all a bit vague in the movie, he just seems to look at statues a lot). Elio passes his time reading, translating music, playing various instruments, riding his bicycle, swimming in rivers, and generally moseying around without a shirt on. Then Oliver (played by Armie Hammer) arrives on the scene. Apparently, he is a 24-year-old American college graduate student working on his doctorate and is the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Again, I’m assuming you get this from the novel or are left to guess who he is because his appearance is never really explained in such explicit terms. I only really knew who he was because of the reviews I had read, otherwise I would probably still be confused. As an aside, I hope it was an unpaid internship as he spends most of his time playing volleyball, riding his bicycle, wooing the local women and swimming, and very little time helping the professor.

At first Elio is unphased by his arrival, but soon becomes hyper aware of his presence. At first, he tries to channel all of his sexual energy into his relationship with a local girl, Marzia, but he can only deny his connection with Oliver for so long. Now credit to the defenders of the moral fibre of the film, Oliver does not pray on Elio and does in fact do all he can to hold him off and even during their relationship he is very careful to protect him and his feelings. They do share an undeniable, special connection – although the chemistry between the two actors doesn’t exactly sizzle onscreen – but I wasn’t really wooed by the whole “call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine” bit. Which I guess is maybe the whole point of the movie?

Almost Kiss

To be honest, I wasn’t really wooed by any of it. Except Italy. Italy was very, very pretty. And Chalamet shows definite potential as a big-time actor of the future, but I need to see him play something other than a pouty teenager before I commit fully. Other than that, I was bored senseless from beginning to end. It was like watching the travel channel, focused on one peach farm in Northern Italy for two hours. As petulant teenagers go, Elio made Lady Bird look like the dream child. Your parents give you unlimited freedom, they own a mansion in Italy that you holiday in every summer, winter and Easter; cheer up kid! Speaking of which, his relationship with his parents was beyond unrealistic; No teenager is that close to their parents, regardless of circumstances, it’s ridiculous to expect us to buy that.

Lamest Movie Parents Ever

The only shining moment for me is when his dad has “the talk” with him after Oliver leaves and has these words of wisdom to share: “To make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything, what a waste. Our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once, and before you know it, your heart’s worn out. And as for your body, there comes a point when nobody looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there’s sorrow, pain; don’t kill it. Keep it with the joy you felt.” Two minutes and fifty-two seconds of joy in two hours and twelve minutes of pain.

I tried, I honestly did. I guess this is just a perfect example of different strokes for different folks. I honestly don’t see how anyone garnered any kind of enjoyment from watching this film. And if it wins best picture tonight I might just break my TV.

Rating: 1/5

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Film Review: Get Out

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I was originally supposed to watch Get Out months and months ago on a girls’ weekend away. We had planned a movie night for the Friday evening and my friend who was doing most of the organising wanted something scary and something funny to watch. There were six of us going in total. Five black ladies and me. The lone whitey. I got sick at the last minute and had to cancel. Thank God. They have since confirmed they would have made me sleep in the bathtub with the door locked. From the outside. Fair dues.

If you don’t already know, Get Out tells the tale of Chris, an African-American photographer and his very white, very middle-class girlfriend Rose, who have reached the “meet the parents” relationship milestone. She invites him to her parents’ house for a weekend getaway in what turns out to be a very secluded estate in the woods. They are extremely welcoming and accommodating, but what might at first seem like anxious and over-polite ways to deal with an interracial relationship they might still not be entirely comfortable with, soon turn creepy and unnerving as the weekend progresses. Plus, there’s all the other African-American people who are just behaving strangely like the maid and the gardener and the guest who is the same age as Chris but married to someone twice his age and doesn’t seem to know what a fist bump is. What exactly is going on?!

Chris and Rose

That really is all I want to say on the plot because to risk spoilers is to risk spoiling the movie. The storytelling is genius. I unfortunately knew one of the major plot twists in advance and although it ruined some of the tension, it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the film. As much as it’s a horror movie, it’s a psychological thriller. It’s also a social commentary on racism, white privilege and liberal hypocrisy. The best part is, it’s done so subtly, the cultural critiques and observations are woven so cleverly into the fabric of the narrative, you find yourself horrified by something or laughing at something that you yourself are probably guilty of. I think that’s actually why you leave feeling a little shaken up, rather than because of the horror and the violence.

Writer and director Jordan Peele has made history by becoming the third person to earn best picture, best director, and best screenplay Oscar nominations for a directorial debut. Yes, I thought I would mention his accomplishments before mentioning his skin colour – we can move on to that next. He has the opportunity to be the first African-American to win best director, the fifth to be nominated. Last year he also became the first black writer-director with a $100 million debut when Get Out passed the box office mark in a mere 16 days. Daniel Kaluuya is also nominated for best actor – a most worthy nomination. I think the picture of him in the grey hoodie, strapped to the chair with humungous eyes and tears rolling down his cheeks is going to be an iconic picture for years to come. As far as performances go, I think a special mention should go to LilRel Howery for his role as Rod. Everyone needs a friend like Rod in their life!

Much is being said about Get Out breaking down Oscar barriers by becoming one of only a handful of horror movies to be nominated for best picture. However, I would argue that it’s more of a thriller than a horror. Same goes for Silence of the Lambs. I have literally never heard of it being classified as a horror movie before, except for now, when they want to compare the two. In 1992 Silence of the Lambs swept the top five categories (one of only three films to do so) and as horrifying as some of its scenes might be, it is first and foremost a psychological thriller. Some articles are even including The Sixth Sense and Black Swan in their definition of horror. I think The Exorcist (1973) could legitimately be classified as a horror film. It was nominated but lost out to The Sting, arguably one of the greatest films of all time. Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, straddling the fence between horror and thriller was nominated in 1975 but lost out to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – one of the other three films to win all top five categories.

GetOutGallery

I think in general I associate horror movies with gore and the macabre, cheap scares with things jumping out at you and unbelievable, often cringeworthy story lines. That’s why they don’t get nominated for Oscars. When the writing crosses over into the level of prestige and the story becomes thought-provoking, they become thrillers and the Oscar crowd takes notice. Perhaps the comedic value offered by Get Out and the shear farce of the last ten minutes has everyone a bit confused as to how to label it, but at the end of the day, who cares. Jordan Peele made a damn good movie and he’s probably going to make loads more. Woo freaking hoo!

Rating: 3.5/5