Thursday, September 20, 2007

BFF: The Metrosexual

I'm not sure what gave the BFF guys the idea to add "The Street Cleaner" to the end of The Metrosexual, other than maybe having had wires crossed about when the director was going to be in town. It's an odd pairing; The Metrosexual is a wannabe zany comedy; "The Street Cleaner" aims to make the audience uneasy. There was no announcement about this, either, it was just sprung on us when we sat down for the feature. A number of people left the theater as soon as the Metrosexual Q&A was done, probably because that didn't leave much time to get to Good Luck Chuck.

What a sad double feature that sounds like. Chuck isn't outright bad, but together, that would be three hours of films aiming for broad laughs but almost never quite managing it because they back off from anything that might keep the audience from loving their main characters.

Maybe that's the lesson to take from those disappointing movies: It's okay to laugh at characters who get into ridiculous situations for reasons that are their own damn fault; we'll still like them so long as they can get out of them in a clever way or at least learn from the experience.

The Metrosexual

* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 16 September 2007 at AMC Boston Common #17 (Boston Film Festival 2007)

Do people still actually say "metrosexual"? In today's internet-speed environment, pop culture memes have an average half-life of about six months, and "metrosexual" peaked two or three years ago. Not that it really matters; the title character's metrosexuality isn't really that big a deal. Maybe if it had been, the movie would have been a heck of a lot funnier.

A metrosexual, if you've never heard the term or it has already faded for memory, is a straight man who has the same kind of obsessive attention to appearance and general personality as a traditional gay stereotype, which is good for a few jokes about Eric Bremer (Shaun Benson) early on. He's also kind of unlucky in love, spends a lot of time with lifelong friend Leo (Nick Paonessa), and has a father (Bruce Weitz) who is his complete opposite in personality. Easygoing Leo is on the rebound, and thus makes a faithful sidekick for Eric's romantic and sexual misadventures.

Those misadventures are pretty standard stuff: Eric and Leo go to a strip club, Eric's date is interrupted by his uncouth father, Eric throws a party, Eric and Leo hire hookers who are not as attractive as their pictures. Of course, the fact that Eric is an uptight control freak (and Leo is not) threatens to ruin everything at every turn. Things inevitably end with Eric being humiliated in some way, and neither the set-up nor the punchline is very clever. There are a few funny moments sprinkled throughout the movie, but only one or two is big enough to even start to make up for the number of bits that don't work.

The way those bits come also illustrates a shortcoming, in that the characters don't really do a lot of funny things. Rather, they constantly break the fourth wall and tell us something that's supposed to be funny. Every character does it individually and in groups, for a bunch of purposes: Defining terms, introducing characters and flashbacks, illustrating character quirks. It's constant enough that it continually underlines what an unreal construct Eric is, when if it had been a little more judiciously it might might have been a more entertaining way to get into his head. (This happens in regular dialog, too, as with Leo just saying "all Eric's eighties music? It's because he stopped growing there.") It also sometimes seems like the writers have this joke they can't figure out how to fit in. The bit with how a gay friend can get away with all manner of hugely inappropriate pawing of women is probably the funniest in the film, but it's got absolutely nothing to do with anything else that's going on.

The addressing the camera is probably inspired by Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Shaun Benson does sort of have a young Matthew Broderick vibe to him. He and Nick Paonessa are sincere enough that I'd like to see them with better material. Vic Chao is probably most reliably funny as Kurt, the aforementioned gay friend, but he's also underused. Similarly underused is Colm Meaney as "The Mayor", owner of a local strip club (why give a guy a nickname and let him address the audience directly unless he's going to be in more than two scenes?). Bruce Weitz falls into the "should be funnier" category for most of the movie as the immature father, although he does amuse a little in the end when he's called on to be cranky from his meds, rather than just fussy and crude.

I almost think that director Adam Kaufman and writer Josh Diamond needed to go for broke a little more. Or at least, for the obvious joke. There's a moment in the movie where the navigational system in Eric's car goes on the fritz, and his date says it's no big deal, he knows how to get home, right? Of course I do, says Eric. And then the film cuts to them... pulling into Eric's driveway. What the heck? Similarly, how do you miss doing anything innuendo-wise with Eric and Leo? It's just sitting right there, an opportunity to at least try to do something funny. This sort of thing wouldn't have been classy in the least, but that ship sailed with the strip club. Those things would have been chances for big laughs, rather than the small chuckles that they seem to be shooting for. It's as though they're afraid of making the characters in their comedy look foolish, which is just not a recipe for success.

I think I laughed once or twice while watching The Metrosexual, and as much as the audience was saying nice things to the guests afterward, I didn't hear a whole lot of noise from them while the film was actually running. It's not the funniest idea for a movie ever, but they still could have done a heck of a lot more with it.

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