January 16, 2018

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet




In the era of backlash to supposed "PC-culture," where just being gay or mentioning the fact that you're black is somehow a political statement, some people are getting the impression that Call Me By Your Name's critical acclaim is somehow riding off the societal coattails of last year's Moonlight. (See this thread about it from film critic and Oscar voter Mark Harris)

But just like every coming-of-age film is unique in its own way, gay coming-of-age movies are unique too! This one takes place over 6 weeks in 1980's Italy and half the movie is in a foreign language. So you know, slightly different from a story about a bullied black boy growing up on the gritty streets of Miami. But gay romance and gay romance, right? *insert eye roll*

Anyway....

If you judge this movie solely from Timothée Chalamet's point of view, it's beautiful. The story is touching, poignant, dramatic, full of tension, and superbly acted. The little dialogue there is vacillates between Italian, French, and English, and Chalamet switches between them seamlessly and without any awkwardness. He embodies the uncertainty of youth, the desire of new experiences, and the sorrow of heartbreak. Gay, straight, or anything in between, anyone should be able to relate to the emotions he pours out on screen.

Enter: my issues with the story. Namely, the fact that he is a child and Armie Hammer's character is a full-fledged adult. After watching the movie I looked up how old Hammer's character was supposed to be because honestly, I was so upset about the whole thing. Allegedly 24. Except that Armie Hammer is 31 and looks it. (Chalamet, on the other hand, is 22 but actually looks 17.) So the whole movie very much as the feel of an adult/child relationship. So no, sorry, I couldn't get on board with it being a "beautiful love story" from that point of view. Whether it was legal or socially acceptable in 1980's Italy for such an age discrepancy to exist, it rankled me to see what felt like an adult entering into a sexual relationship with a confused child. It just feels like a power imbalance and yes, I tell my 30-something friends the same thing about dating 19-year-olds of the opposite sex. You can't have a mature relationship with a teenager and frankly, an adult should know that. Even at 24 (which Hammer again, is clearly not).

My other issue is with Armie Hammer himself. He feels like someone created and propped up by Hollywood executives who have a "leading man look" in mind. He's like a poor man's Bradley Cooper, who himself is mostly just a great head of hair. But in a movie filled with loooooooooong stretches of silence (seriously. this movie has more silent stretches than a Terrence Malik film.), every word uttered and every meaningful look needs to count. And so often, I was left confused by his portrayal. Is he confused? Angry? Sad? I literally can't tell from his acting. He's basically a cardboard cutout of an Abercrombie model.

So my verdict on the movie is pretty divided. On one hand, I love it for the story it tells us of Elio, Chalamet's character. I love the score, the scenery, and even the gentle loving relationship Elio has with his parents. It is such a positive film and not one we see very often.

On the other hand, this movie would have been a million times better with someone else in the role of Oliver. Almost anyone else. Bradley Cooper, even. (Though really, someone who is actually in their early twenties. And can act.) Hollywood: stop trying to make Armie Hammer happen.

Final word: The teenager in me loved it. The adult in me did not.

P.S. One more thing. I think the name of the movie is stupid. /Fin

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