Tag Archives: Randall Park

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.

Dinner for Schmucks

I was literally up to my elbows in cookie dough, had been for at least 6 hours, and we’d already listened to all my Christmas records. I was craving something funny, but more importantly, something easy to watch – something that wouldn’t suffer from my inattention or oven checks or frosting mishaps. Solution: 2010’s Dinner for Schmucks, a movie I’d seen and enjoyed when first released but not since.

And honestly: why the heck not? It’s actually FUNNY. I mean funny. But also wacky, an offbeat kind of film where Paul Rudd plays chronic good guy Tim who’s up for a big promotion at work but will lose it unless he plays along with a weird office tradition wherein the high ups try to impress their boss by bringing the biggest idiot the can find to a dinner party where the idiots will be secretly judged and one of them awarded the top prize (which, if you’ve been paying attention, is not compliment).

Tim is not normally the kind of guy to condone such disrespectful shit but he’s real desperate for the promotion. And the universe basically drops an idiot right into his lap. Barry (Steve Carell) is a weirdo who misinterprets almost all that life has to offer and he spends all of his free time searching for dead mice to taxidermy and pose in intricate dioramas inspired by his fantasy life. It would be hard to out-schmuck this guy. Tim’s got it in the bag.

His girlfriend, meanwhile, is losing all respect for him. But while his relationship circles the toilet, we the audience are beyond entertained by their antics – heightened by memorable turns from Zach Galifianakis and Jemaine Clement. There’s layers of insanity in every single corner of this movie, and that’s before we even get to the dinner, which is peopled by extravagantly bizarre characters by the likes of Chris O’Dowd and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer.

This was a delight to revisit. A sheer, full-figured delight.

Always Be My Maybe

Sasha Tran is a famous chef opening a new restaurant in her hometown, San Francisco. Her fiance has just fled to India for 6 months, during which time they’re going to “see other people.” Those other people may or may not include Marcus, Sasha’s childhood best friend, with whom she lost touch after an ill-conceived grief-fuck in the backseat of his car. I mean definitely not. Their brief coupling was so awkward, and then she went off and did big things and he stayed behind to work in the family business after his mom died. It’ll never work. Never.

Sasha (Ali Wong) and Marcus (Randall Park) have a lot of love between them, but love is not enough. Their lives have diverged more than just geographically. Plus, it’s hard to take a dip in the hot springs of love when you’ve been lollygagging in the fallow fields of friendship all these years. Can they possibly overcome?

I mean, yes. Of course they can. This is a goddamned rom-com people. It’s not rocket science. There’s no will they or won’t they, there’s just how much longer until they do. And with this movie, you kinda hope it’ll be a while because you’re just enjoying the ride so much. Or at least I was, and improbably, I believe Sean was too. So that’s two people who hate romcoms (Sean because he literally has no emotions and myself because I’ve literally had eyeball surgery after bursting a network of vessels when I rolled them too much) who have made an exception for this one.

Always Be My Maybe is funny, and not just because the title is a pessimistic twist on a 1990s Mariah Carey song. Ali Wong is of course a comedy genius, and she plays very well against Randall Park, who I’ve always thought of as more of a dry comedian, but he’s got a bigger bag of tricks than I ever knew, including a musical side AND a violent side – and while I love them both, by god, I loved them even more when combined (stay through the credits).

This movie has absolutely nothing new to add in the romance department but you’ll be so busy being taken by surprise by random lines funny enough to stay with you for weeks you won’t even care. The cast is charmingly quirky and features a cameo (in fact, a meaty little part) that will pretty much make your year. Always Be My Maybe is streaming on Netflix right now, and it’s not a maybe, it’s a full-on yes.