Jan 12, 2014

[Movies] What Happens Next (2011)

Many times I wonder what motivates people to put together an independent LGBT movie. Clearly it's not for the money since there's a very limited market for these movies and thus ticket sales aren't something to look forward to. I suppose something inspired them to put these movies together - maybe a personal experience that they wanted to use as a story or just a personal yearning that they wanted to address.

When it comes to movies like What Happens Next, I really can't help but think that the folks behind the movie have some sort of a message that they want to convey. Whether this message is just a noble one or perhaps one derived from personal experiences is not for me to say.

This is but one of many movies that I ended up watching one after the other over the holiday season to help build up my review queue. It certainly had its nice, poignant moments, but it also had a lot of confusing bits, as is typical for many movies of this nature. I watch them so all of you can have a better sense of what the movie might be like before you plunge in head first.

I'm on the fence about whether or not I want to endorse this one.


Synopsis: What Happens Next is 2011 LGBT comedy written and directed by Jay Arnold together with co-screenplay writer Thom Cardwell. It had debuted at the 2011 FilmOut San Diego film festival.

The movie begins with Paul Greco (Jon Lindstrom) finally selling his company in order to embrace retirement. His sister Elise (Wendie Malick) gives him a dog to give him something to build a new routine around given the radical shift in his life. Thus as he embraces becoming a pet owner, he find himself absorbed in various dog-related duties including daily walks in the park. There he meets Andy (Chris Murrah), another dog owner who also patronizes the same part. The two engage in daily conversations while their dogs play and a friendship begins to build.

Andy eventually reveals that he's gay and Paul finds himself developing significant feelings for the younger man. Given how busy he has been with his business over the years, he never really invested too much time in personal relationships, and thus these feelings are an unusual awakening for him. Andy constantly shares stories of his conversations with Paul with his best friend Roz (Natalia Cigliuti) and she becomes wary about his growing fascination with this straight man. So she endeavors to fix him up with a photography artist who is putting up his first show at her art gallery - the same young man who is actually the son of Elise.

Now to be fair, I can buy into the 55 year old gay awakening story angle. It's not completely unheard of and I've encountered friends who weren't able to come to terms with their sexuality until much later in life. But it would have helped if Paul had had other on the fly "experiments" over the years, even if only under the influence of alcohol. To have completely no idea about this side in him primarily because of conversations with a young guy in the park was a bit of a stretch, but I suppose one just have to buy into the movie logic at work here.

And for the young man to claim to be wary about things in the beginning but still feel like he was somehow cheated or used in the process of becoming more intimate with Paul just felt very immature. I could see this turn coming from a mile a way but I still hoped against hope that it wouldn't go down this road. But of course a movie needs conflict and the first night together was of course going to be used as the vehicle for movie drama moments. I think the movie makers could have gone in a new direction in this area, but clearly it was an opportunity wasted.

And it's a shame since there were some genuinely interesting moments during the various conversations between Paul and Andy. But all that had to give way to the predictably "clever" interconnections factored into the story once you bring in the plot threads related to Elise's son. They made sure there were plenty of reasons for the various characters to mix up the plot later in the movie. Paul was Brian's confidant while Elise already suspected he was gay. She tries to attend a PFLAG to better understand her son and this leads her to meeting Andy, who is a volunteer. Rince, lather and repeat.

The movie isn't the rib-tickling variety of comedy. If ever, it's more the type of comedy that involves unusual or even uncomfortable situations that are supposed to be amusing to the audience. You will never really laugh in the movie but I guess you might smile a few times. Or maybe just a smirk.

What Happens Next isn't exactly bad nor is it particularly good in any way. It was certainly decent, but has a lot of the pitfalls and tropes that we've seen time and time again in many different LGBT "comedies" of this tone. So the movie can only really get 2.5 supposedly cute moments with the dog out of 5.


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