Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Armie Hammer
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017). Director: Luca Gaudagnino.

In 1983 Italy, 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) lives with his parents in a small village. His father (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of archeology, and each summer a graduate student spends time with the family and assists him. This summer it's 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), who on the surface at least seems sunny and confident. Elio has a sometime girlfriend, but while initially standoffish to Oliver, he eventually seems to focus much more on him than the girl. Elio and Oliver eventually begin a romantic and sexual relationship, but (alleged) true love doesn't always run smoothly. Coll Me By Your Name is based on the novel by Andre Aciman, a middle-aged family man who thinks there's no such thing as "gay, straight or bi" and is possibly not the best person to write a supposed gay love story. The film version is similarly confused when it isn't being tedious. Chalamet, who was actually 20 during filming and could pass for fifteen, gives a very good performance (he is especially good at the very end, when a long take focused just on his face shows the conflicting emotions Elio feels -- from heartbreak to anger to wry understanding of sorts) but Hammer is more problematic. At 31 he is too old and too tall and his very awkward and unconvincing love scenes with the boyish Chalamet are less erotic than they are discomfiting. (While not effeminate, Hammer does seem to play the role at times like a borderline languid queen as if he thought that's how he should play a gay guy.) Others have noted that Oliver is not a child molester -- that Elio is of legal age in Italy -- but the sex scenes still look like ads for NAMBLA. (We do have to remember, however, the innumerable movies that have had adult men involved with 16 or 17-year-old girls without anyone raising an eyebrow.) Others have also noted that Call Me By Your Name comes off less as a love story between equals as it does the story of an older man who gets off on a boy's adoration of him and pretty much takes advantage of it, especially when one considers what he does at the finale. A bigger problem is that Elio and Oliver are simply not that interesting. Perhaps the best scene in the movie is when father and son have a very frank talk without ever quite coming "out" with what they're talking about (pun intended), but which they manage to get across in spite of it. Still, one might wonder if the sequence is really that believable. Call Me By Your Name also has a dated quality, as if it came out in the seventies instead of 2017, and there have certainly been many -- too many -- tales of boys who fall for older men only to have the older guy go off and get married. While I've no doubt many conservatives will see this film as a Gay Lib movie -- not to mention prettified Chickenhawk crap -- the fact is that Call Me By Your Name is not as gay-friendly -- nor as gay --as it may seem, in some ways suggesting (intended or not) that homosexuality is just a phase. Another "minimalist" movie that has no really great or memorable dramatic sequences. 

Verdict: If it doesn't put you to sleep you may find some if it interesting, but otherwise, this is a MAJOR disappointment. **. 

2 comments:

angelman66 said...

Bill, I agree with your criticisms of this film...it didn't have a pro gay vibe to me at all. Also thought it was mighty slow and dull, despite the beautiful Italian countryside and the attractive stars. Some nice moments, but hardly worthy of all the raves and Oscar nods. A step backwards from Brokeback Mountain, I'd say!
-Chris

William said...

I am so glad that someone agrees with me on this. When I ask about it no one I know even admits to seeing it, LOL! There has been an almost hysterical over-reaction to this film, maybe from people who remember youthful love affairs and early heartbreak and are superimposing their own memories on this mediocre movie. Too many people look at this (and other films) strictly from an emotional standpoint and not a critical. Not that an emotional reaction doesn't count for anything, but people have to really measure a films' strengths and weaknesses as well.

Well, at least it didn't win the Oscar, which would have been ridiculous. Yes, a step backwards ...