Don’t See This Movie

Testosterone would seem to have everything going for it. The director, David Moreton, did Edge of Seventeen, which is a cute little coming out movie. Stars include marginal but talented TV actor David Sutcliffe, a hot former soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., comic character actress Jennifer Coolidge, and Latino cinema grande dame Sonia Braga. Equal parts eye candy and substance. Just what we want in gay films.

Unfortunately it is an unmitigated mess. The plot is incoherent. The characters are inconsistent. Character development is so poor that I don’t believe any of their actions, or their reactions to major turns in the story. Jennifer Coolidge is the only good thing about the movie. She plays a brassy editor with a dirty mouth. Chalk up one point. But the rest of it? Sorry.

The protagonist, Dean, is a graphic novel writer. His hot boyfriend, Pablo, goes missing inexplicably one night. Dean, apparently feeling that his boyfriend is a piece of missing property he must retrieve, follows him two weeks later to Argentina. He finds out that Pablo is from a rich and powerful family. He befriends a woman, Sofia, who works in a cafe across the street from Pablo’s family’s house. With her brother, Marco, who was Pablo’s lover a few years prior, and who we learn is supposed to kill Dean for reasons yet unclear, they reluctantly agree to help him find Pablo.

Up to this point, the movie is merely plodding, awkwardly paced, and annoying. Dean goes from frustrated graphic novel writer to spurned lover to ugly American to unhinged stalker. At one point, he pulls a gun on a cop who is called to the scene when he begins harassing Pablo’s mother. We lose a little sympathy for him, but we are led to believe that certain facts will be revealed, and Pablo’s disappearance, Dean’s irrational behavior, and the strange connection to Sofia and Marco will all make sense in some big payoff scene at the end.

As it turns out, we are misled.

I get that the filmmakers were going for an unconventional arc, revealing plot points strategically to build suspense and achieve a sort of allegiance with the protagonist. And this would be commendable if it could manage to pull itself together into a coherent story. There is enough to work with to make this a suspenseful, unconventional (i.e., not just soft-core porn) gay film. Instead we are left with a disastrous, nonsensical collection of scenes that will leave you wanting two hours of your life back.

It starts out promisingly, even artfully. But the moment we learn that Pablo has gone missing, not only does the protagonist come unglued, but the entire film goes to pieces. Again, thematically interesting — the state of the story mimics the state of mind of the protagonist — but only if you are able to make sense of it for the audience. Otherwise you are wasting our time.

We learn that Pablo has left two weeks after it happens. Dean runs into Pablo’s mother at an art gallery, and after manhandling her to get some answers, she reveals that Pablo has returned to Argentina (so why is she in L.A.?), but she refuses to say why.

Rather than helping Dean, Sofia and Marco delay and distract him (and us), promising to take him to Pablo, but instead taking him to places where they know he won’t be, e.g., their house, Pablo’s country home. Dean’s resolve to find Pablo — and win him back, get an explanation, shake his finger at him (it is anyone’s guess what he hopes to achieve) — grows exponentially.

Dean sleeps with Marco, in a classic fist-fight-leads-to-sex moment at Pablo’s country house. Then the next morning, for no reason apparent to the audience, Marco kills himself. Or, has someone else killed him? (And, importantly, do we care?) Sofia seems mildly disappointed that her brother is dead, and she half-heartedly blames Dean. But they don’t report the apparent suicide. (What happens to the body is anyone’s guess.)

Despite all this, she continues to hang around with Dean, who has now decided, after remembering a story Marco told him about his and Sofia’s ancestors, to cut off Pablo’s head. We are left to wonder what Pablo has done that is so terrible that he deserves death. Maybe something juicy to look forward to later on? (Nope. Wrong again.) Dean looks over the chainsaws but opts instead for a machete, which he carries around like a lunatic adventurer. He also picks up a sporty red cooler to store Pablo’s head. We finally lose any sympathy we may have had for Dean.

When he finds out that Pablo and Sofia are in phone contact with each other, Dean pulls a gun on her and accidentally shoots her in the hand, vowing not to miss next time. Under threat of death, Sofia arranges a time and place for Dean to meet Pablo, which turns out to be Pablo’s wedding 𔃉 to her.

Dean crashes the reception, which is remarkable, because every time he so much as showed up at Pablo’s house, his mother called the cops. He grabs a piece of cake, winks at Sofia from across the room, and kidnaps Pablo, who is getting it on with a waiter in another room.

This is our pay-off scene. So we can piece together why he left: Rich family needs to save face; gay heir marries some woman from a cafe across the street so the family is publicly proper, while he goes on sleeping with Argentine waiters and insane Americans.

Dean, who could barely communicate with a taxi driver three days ago, but who now displays a remarkable facility for Argentine highways, drives Pablo to his country house and — we are led to believe — hacks off his head.

Then, back in L.A., we see Dean’s editor showering him with accolades for writing another winner (which we must assume is based on the events we have just witnessed). Conveniently, the cooler arrives at his editor’s office via air mail while he is there. (Can’t get a severed head through customs, I guess.) He snaps it up, tosses it into his driver’s side seat where his dog playfully gnaws on the lid. And Dean drives off into the sunset.

So why was Pablo’s mom at an L.A. art gallery at the beginning of the movie while Pablo was in Argentina, apart for plot convenience? Why did Sofia toy with him instead of telling him the truth? Why was Marco trying to kill him? It was Sofia’s refusal to send Dean away that led to her brother being killed. And when she saw how crazy he was acting, and that he was literally out tom kill her future husband, why did she continue to help him? Why did she intervene when he pulled the gun on the cop earlier and convince him to let Dean go? (And what cop would have allowed it?)

None of these questions is answered. And by the end of the movie, I don’t even care.

No one has acted in a remotely plausible manner. No one has any discernible motivation, except Dean, but he is just crazy and, frankly, a little tedious. Basically, all that happens is he gets unceremoniously dumped and he can’t take the hint (It’s a pretty big hint. He moved back to Argentina.) So he goes to another country feeling entitled to interfere with other people’s lives just so he can … again — what is it exactly that Dean is looking to achieve?

Then, to make matters even worse, infuriatingly, the final scene of the movie shows Sofia and Marco at their house sitting on the porch smoking. So Marco is alive. Great. Whatever. This at least explains why there was no funeral, which we now realize made no at all sense earlier. It also explains why Sofia was so untroubled by his death. (It wasn’t bad acting. It’s just that he really wasn’t dead!) But what possible purpose was there in faking his death?

The director is throwing us plot twists for the sake of plot twists, apparently to distract us from the train wreck of the rest of the movie and to create some sort of illusion that there is something deeper and more interesting at play that we can puzzle out with enough review and careful thought. Watch the movie again, he seems to say, now that you know the wacky ending and see if you can figure out what’s really happening. No thank you. It may have worked for a truly cinematically interesting movie like Memento, but I’d rather attend a sing-along screening of Mamma Mia than sit through this again.


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the untallied hours

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