Dysfunctional? In case you have been living under a rock or been raised by a pack of wolves, Hollywood wants to alert you to this plague with not one but an entire spate of films that were, for some reason, let out of the gates all at the same time.
After the summer mayhem of action-adventure and empty-calorie comedies, Hollywood now wants us to eat our vegetables, except this salad is filled with poison. So much dirty laundry being washed in front of our eyes in digicolor can be a cathartic experience, I guess. One might find oneself running home afterwards to say, “Mom. Dad. You’re angels compared to what I just saw.”
And yet this isn’t worth a cent of our hard-earned money, nor is there anything imaginative or ground breaking in this genre that has been wreaking mayhem on our psyches since Ordinary People and reached an especially nauseating crescendo with last year’s August Osage County. Or perhaps the moral of the story is: Don’t watch The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, This Is Where I Leave You,
LGBT audiences may be interested in The Skeleton Twins and Love Is Strange, both with gay male characters at the center of their stories.
In The Skeleton Twins, siblings Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) reunite after they attempt suicide coincidentally on the same day and fail. Promotional materials describe the plot as “having both coincidentally cheated death on the same day, estranged twins reunite with the possibility of mending their relationship.” “Cheated” death? Like how? They missed a bolt of lightning by an inch or escaped getting trampled in a Black Friday stampede at Walmart? Like its PR, the film doesn’t want to dwell on the reasons that lead these characters to suicide; it is more interested in the “mending” that is punctuated by alternately serious and cutesy moments to make sure we know we are watching a dramedy. The film succeeds, moderately, in spotlighting how human interactions can feel completely banal after one has “cheated” death. This is largely because of Hader’s sensitive and nuanced performance. Unfortunately the film pivots on the character of Maggie who is so completely despicable – or “flawed” as Hollywood would like to call her – that I kept waiting for Cher to pop in, slap her hard and shout, “Snap out of it!” I guess I cheated death by surviving this travesty and living to tell about it.
Love Is Strange, a little gem of a film, fares the best among this shabby lot. It is another stunning accomplishment by the same writing duo Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias that brought us Keep The Lights On (2012). Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) get married after 39 years together but their happiness is short-lived as George loses his job in an ironic twist to the concept of equality. Suddenly in financial jeopardy, they are forced to move out of their apartment in lower Manhattan and separated by a temporary living arrangement until they can find an affordable home again. Powered by incredibly moving performances by Lithgow and Molina, Love Is Strange is filled with surprises, devastating in its astute observations about gay and straight relationships, and beautifully subtle in its execution.
Not surprisingly, bisexual characters are nowhere to be found in these movies. Television isn’t doing any better with bi characters that aren’t vampires or aliens. B Turn off the noise, save your money at the movies, stay home and read a book!