Straight Up

Netflix just dropped a bizarre comedy this weekend starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. Netflix will green-light just about everything, which was music to Ferrell’s ears – literally. Finally, his semi-chub for Eurovision would pay off! If it’s not already the #1 viewed film on the streaming platform, I’m sure it will be soon. And it does have its funny moments, even I can admit that.

But Straight Up is also a new release on Netflix, and this one’s a movie you actually should see.

Todd (James Sweeney) is a confused young man. He’s neurotic, he’s OCD, he’s phobic, he’s addicted to therapy, which tends to stir up more questions than answers. One recent question is: am I actually gay?

Sexuality may be quite obvious to most, but Todd is wondering if maybe he just internalized the label from having been bullied as a child. He hasn’t really had any relationships, nor has he had sex thanks to an aversion to bodily fluids. He tests out this new theory on two long-time (/only) friends, who are less than enthusiastic for this line of thinking. Of course he’s gay, they assure him. Of course. But Todd is petrified of dying alone, and since adding females to the mix more than doubles the dating pool, the math is on his side. More or less. It may be a tad difficult to attract women with his distinct “I’m gay” vibe.

But not, it turns out, impossible. He meets Rory (Katie Findlay) and they immediately bond of Gilmore Girls, which is apt because they too are hyper-verbal. The dialogue zings between them rapid-fire and yet feels natural. Sweeney and Findlay have an incredible chemistry that belies an instant connection and intimacy. They are intellectual soulmates. But can they sustain a romance?

This film is all kinds of incredible. First, we get to explore a young and fluid concept of sexual identity. These kids are not afraid to redefine society’s so-called institutions to suit their own needs. They don’t ask whether they can be romantic partners but not sexual ones – they just get to it. Nothing’s off the table and everything can be negotiated.

It’s still pride month, and you may have noticed that among all of the letters of the rainbow (LGBTQia2+), the Q stands for both queer, and for questioning, which doesn’t necessarily mean that someone’s sexuality is in limbo. It can simply be an admission that sexuality is a spectrum, and one’s place on it may be in flux (a sort of agnosticism for sexual orientation, if you will). Generation Z much more readily embraces these gradations. And I don’t mean that it’s easy or it’s perfect, just that our understanding continues to expand, and there’s a lot more nuance than just the binary female/male, hetero/homosexual.

Five years ago, James Sweeney was a lowly assistant to Duke Johnson, who himself is not a household name, but he was co-director on that wonderful stop-motion animated film by Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa. Flash forward only a few years, and he’s already writing and directing his own films, and even more incredibly, they’re actually first rate. He’s not just putting sexuality on trial, he’s questioning our basic definition of romantic love. As he should. The truth is, no relationship strictly conforms to a dictionary’s ideal. Maybe love can only be defined by the people who are feeling it. And maybe we should just chuck out these meaningless labels anyway.

I feel energized by these challenges to the status quo, but most of all I was just falling a little in love with Rory and Todd myself. Their wit and effervescence perfectly captures that consuming and in fact addicting aspect of new love. Recognition of this higher connection is intoxicating and exhilarating and you just want more, more, more. While I would categorize Sean as “distressingly straight” and myself as “pansexual,” still we recognize a bit of ourselves in this young couple, because those first heady days of romance are unmistakable. Sweeney and Findlay give generous performances and make easy work of what I can only imagine was a pretty hefty script. And an impressive one at that.

Look for Straight Up on Netflix.

23 thoughts on “Straight Up

      1. Tom

        That is unfortunately an oversight. We did however host an annual Look Like Ferrell dressup contest. I guess Chad really ran with our idea. No credit whatsoever which was b.s. but whatever.

        Liked by 2 people

      1. leendadll

        I started watching Straight Up. I love the rapid fire dialog but had to pause the movie till my attention span is higher. Thx again for the review!

        Like

  1. Often Off Topic

    I’m not ashamed to say I kind of enjoyed the hell out of the Eurovision movie, but thank you for highlighting this movie because I had no idea it was also dropped yesterday. Definitely going to give it a watch!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jay Post author

      It’s easy to like and this year has had a dearth of comedies so this one was very welcome. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a sure bet for a giggle.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Me too. I talk all the time and rarely shut it but this movie was so verbal I could barely get a word in myself. I think I felt like Sean!

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  2. StephLove

    I was thinking about generational change in the way we look at sexual orientation when I was watching The Magicians with Noah. One of the main male characters is gay and another would probably be described at heteroflexible, but the thing is they just sometimes have a sex without it being a big deal that one of them is primarily attracted to women. They never even really talk about it and the mainly straight character is prone to self-questioning about everything else.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I felt similar with a movie called Big Little Giants
      Two “straight” best friends have sex one night, and one of them wakes up and just thinks: huh. Okay. The other has a much more negative/fear-based reaction, but I thought that first reaction was worth so much.

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  3. James

    I apologize for being stupid but I just didn’t get the ending. Who was the other guy? I obviously missed something. Was he there to satisfy them? Someone please answer, it’s confusing to me but no one else is asking so I guess I’m the only one that doesn’t get it. Thanks in advance.

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    1. Jay Post author

      You aren’t stupid, it is purposefully vague. T problem is, it’s meant to be open-ended. We don’t know for sure.
      Maybe Todd and Rory are together, and he’s jut a friend.
      Maybe they’re no longer together and he’s a boyfriend to one or the other.
      Maybe they’re in a throuple.
      Maybe he’s a roommate.
      Maybe he’s a special friend who gets invited over when Rory would like physical intimacy.
      I think the point is to just feel that Todd and Rory have found a way to stay friends, and maybe partners, but they’ve allowed their bond to grow and be defined on their own terms and to hope that they’re both happy with this arrangement.

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