Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gay Film Review: "Is It Just Me?"



I have to admit that I didn't go looking for the DVD of "Is It Just Me," I won it in a GayRomLit event this past October and finally made time to watch it last night. I honestly don't get more than an hour or two to watch TV, and when I do it's usually something I'm catching up on with DVR.

As anyone can imagine, the reviews for IIJM are about as diverse as any reviews out there for gay romance, and though I don't review films often, I did want to take the time to review this one simply because I'm always harping about how TV and Hollywood usually get it wrong with gay content. In this case, with IIJM, I have admit that although I found flaws throughout the film, I actually liked/loved it and I thought it represented a few different kinds of gay men...which I don't see often. But before you get too excited, I'm also going to be honest about it. Just keep in mind that I did like it...even if I get a little snarky.

The basic storyline revolves around Blaine, a very normal, average nice-looking young gay man who is more interested in finding love than sex. The flaw with this is that most young gay men are looking for love and the right guy to marry. But they are also having fun while they are looking, and Blaine just seemed too backward to me...and without a viable explanation. Especially because Blaine was so nice-looking, so smart, and without major flaws. But I suppose that can happen and I could be expecting too much. It's just that I know a lot of nice-looking normal gay men in their twenties and they aren't sitting around complaining about not having any fun. Most are having too much fun to complain. Now, had they really come up with a character who had a few fundamental flaws, and wasn't all that normal, I would have loved Blaine a lot more. But it's hard to listen to someone cry poor mouth while he's carrying two loaves of bread under each arm, so to speak.

Then Blaine meets Zander at a coffee shop somewhere in LA, and Zander does something very nice for him. A nice touch, I'll admit. I'm a sucker those little things thrown into plots. A short time after they meet, they wind up chatting online and have no idea they've actually met in person at the coffee shop. Another nice touch. I like kismet, too. While all this online chatting is going on, Blaine has no idea that his extremely humpy male stripper roommate has hijacked his account and Zander is actually speaking to Blaine thinking it's the male stripper roommate, Cameron, because of the profile pic. So Zander is getting interested in Blaine while chatting, and thinking Blaine is actually looks like hot sexy male stripper Cameron. However, keep in mind that it's not as though Blaine is flawed in any way.

The chatting leads to a phone call. And that night Blaine and Zander wind up speaking on the phone for so long Blaine's twelve inch candle burns down to nothing. I don't think that's symbolic at all; I don't think the people who wrote this film would even get this. But I have to admit that one of my all time favorite scenes in a film was with Orlando Bloom in "Elizabethtown" where he spends hours...days...speaking on the phone with Kirsten Dunst before he actually meets her again. I think that's love and romance at its finest. I'm not joking either. I've watched that film so many times I could repeat the dialogue, and my favorite part is when they get to know each other on the phone. Dunst is just perfect, and she's exactly what Bloom needs to move forward with his life. I couldn't say the same about Blaine and Zander.

It's different in "It's Just Me." You don't actually get to hear much of the phone conversation they share, and they also wind up having phone sex before they actually meet. That didn't happen in "Elizabethtown." Now I have nothing against phone sex. And I'm no prude. But if I were looking to really get to know someone on a personal emotional level, and possibly fall in love with him, I wouldn't be having phone sex with him that soon. It would be too creepy. There's a line between sex for sex and falling in love sex, and phone sex at that stage of the game doesn't work. I was actually hoping they wouldn't do it while I watched, but they did. As a side note, there were no nude scenes or any significant erotic scenes to mention at all in this film. So don't get too excited about that if you're into phone sex. You're going to be disappointed. There's nothing sexy at all about this movie, and I don't think they were trying to go for that either. So that wasn't an issue for me, but it might be for others.

When Zander finally sends Blaine his digital photo, Blaine is thrilled to see that the man he's been communicating with his nice looking. He's actually thrilled, which made me wonder about how sincere he is about not caring too much about looks and superficial things. But then Blaine finds out that Zander thinks he's been communicating with Cameron (sexy male stripper) because of the profile pic, and Blaine panics. This turns into a classic Hollywood farce where Cameron pretends to be Blaine when he meets Zander for the first time. It's very Cyrano de BerGerac in a modern day gay situation.

The only problem is that Cameron is not as deep, smart, or thoughtful as Blaine. He's basically a decent guy who makes money stripping, and he's trying to break into films by taking on roles in cheesy horror movies. It's interesting how they trash the horror movies in this film, too. They make jokes about Cameron's films as if they are creating Oscar worthy viewing. I'm really not being snarky here; just honest. And that's because the ultimate plot fail is that Zander meets this decent but shallow guy, Cameron, thinking he's really Blaine, and never questions it. Zander doesn't even question the fact that they have different voices after he's already spoken to him on the phone. Which led me to believe that Zander was just another blithering idiot and Blaine's better off without him. Had I been writing that film, that's what I would have done and Blaine would have found true love somewhere else...anywhere else for that matter. Had I been Blaine in real life, I would have blocked Zander from all social media at once.

But I digress. As the ridiculous farce continues, different characters are shoved into the plot in slightly stereotypical ways. Zander's living/renting (it's never explained) with an older gay man who is the most depressing sad sack I've seen in years. He bakes cupcakes and says things like, "My story's too sad to tell," with a Joan Crawford swoon and a Bette Davis lilt in his voice. But even that's a little exaggerated because we never really learn anything about the older guy's past. His past just sucked. And he's always there to offer his wisdom to poor Zander...who comes home and takes off his shirt the minute he walks through the door. I don't know where they come up with that stuff, because any young gay man who takes off his shirt that way in front of an older gay man wants attention. Plain and simple. And who takes off his shirt the minute he comes home anyway? But we're led to believe that Zander is just an unassuming simple gay man from Texas who would never worked an older gay man for sex or money in his life. He just an innocent kind of guy with a cute Texas accent. But he still strips down, and the older guy's tongue hangs out. The Texas stereotype didn't sit well with me either. I often think these LA and NY movie types assume we all just hopped off the turnip truck, with a guitar, a cowboy hat, and a simple dream.

Another character that's slightly stereotypical is Blaine's "girlfriend." She's so insignificant to the plot I don't even remember her name. She's really Blaine's fag hag, she's there to offer him advice on love and relationships, and she's just a bunch of pithy sarcastic fun.

I'm not going to get into anything else because I don't want this review to have any spoilers. Not that it matters much because the plot is basically the same thing I've seen before in so many other gay themed movies. In fact, I watched this with Tony and we had it figured out within the first half hour and we were right.

But that doesn't mean I'm not going to recommend this film. I actually did enjoy it in spite of all the issues above. You just can't take it seriously; I don't think it was intended to be taken seriously. And that's the spirit with which it should be viewed. There's nothing better than a campy gay movie that doesn't always make sense. One where you love to hate the characters. And truly best of all,  the most unlikely character, the careless male stripper roommate, Cameron, turns out to be the smartest, the coolest, and the only person in a sea of virtual WTF-ery I'd want to get to know in real life.

If I had to rate this on a five star scale, I'd have to give it four stars just because it's so entertaining in a campy way. The acting was good, too. And even though there were so many plot failures, I think it did touch on a few relevant issues that younger gay men are experiencing right now.



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