Nov 23, 2014

[Movies] August (2011)

When I map out my Sunday LGBT posts, the easiest fallback is to write a review. But in order to write a review, I need something to review. And thus I flip through my rolodex of LGBT content and try to figure out what I haven't watched or read or interacted with. Sometimes I'm looking for a particular type of movie to watch. More often than not I'm just happy to find something that I haven't seen yet.

So I walked into the whole watching August experience with little to no clue whatsoever as to what the movie might be about. And I've mentioned this a number of times on the blog, but I do enjoy these moments since it means that I'm not affected by media bias or even the slants that trailers try to present as being the point of the movie and all that buzz. Hooray to naked enjoyment of a thing!

This movie touches on a number of themes that aren't new but because of how common they are, they develop some meaning. After all, because of how common the subject matter is and how many people can relate to the experience, that makes the content more accessible, right?

Synopsis: August is a 2011 LGBT drama written and directed by Eldar Rapaport together with Brian Sloan, who also contributed to the story. The movie is an expansion of the short film, "Postmortem" which features two of the same actors in their respective roles.

The movie is told somewhat out of sequence given some flashbacks that are inserted into the on-going story at seemingly random intervals. But the core story is basic enough. We have Jonathan (Daniel Dugan) in a happy relationship with his partner, illegal immigrant Raul (Adrian Gonzalez). Raul has recently married Jonathan's best friend in order to become a legitimate US citizen, thus ensuring that their relationship can continue on. But things get shaken up once Jonathan's ex-boyfriend Troy (Murray Bartlett) returns to Los Angeles after being away in Spain for a few years.

The break-up was not a good one for Jonathan and it's clear that Troy left him and then moved to Spain. But now he's back and seems to be making overtures of rekindling the friendship and perhaps a lot more than that. Raul sees the danger posed by Troy coming back into Jonathan's life but he gives Jonathan a lot of leeway to resolve this issue for himself before taking more definite action. But the chemistry between Troy and Jonathan is still there and the two eventually start a bit of an affair, with Jonathan falling back into old habits.

The most striking thing about this movie is how it was shot. It's pretty impressive and you can sense that there's a certain deliberateness to every frame - the director had a clear idea of how he wanted each and every scene to come across. This doesn't ensure that every sequence comes across as meaningful though - a lot of times it feels like it's trying really hard but it's not entirely certain about what it wants to say. And this continues on with sequences that drag on because of highly stylized sequences.

The story in itself is familiar enough - we all have that sort of "bad boy" ex-partner that you'll always have some feelings for even though it makes no logical sense. These are the guys who hurt us the most and yet still you seem to  be able to gloss over those past sins one you get caught up in the heat of the moment. And this movie does a decent job of depicting these moments in a manner that still feels more like art than soft core porn.

The acting talent was highly inconsistent in this movie, which is a shame given the goals of the story. Sometimes it's hard to understand the emotional rationale for some of the decisions since many of the actors come across a little flat or unemotional. There's a strong tendency to mumble out lines in an order to sound more introspective or something and that just gets in the way of understanding things.

As a boyfriend, Raul is both attractive and pathetic. He's a major doormat for most of the movie and it's not entirely clear why he lets things go on for as long as they do. The scene involving the haircut totally merited a stronger response than what he did and it's hard to understand why he didn't do more.

The movie ends on an odd note, but I suppose this is consistent with what one might expect from a movie of this nature. There's a goal to appear as more of an art film than it actually once, but you have to give credit for the ambition behind the movie. But for those looking for lighter reasons to watch this movie, there's a fair amount of eye candy and the fact the movie is set in the middle of a summer heatwave means a lot of excuses to walk around shirtless.

August isn't exactly bad - but it does feel a tad pretentious at times as it tries to accomplish so much. But despite how the movie stretches out, the story in itself is pretty simple and perhaps there's a degree of elegance in that fact. Thus the movie only rates 3 long moments of staring into the distance out of a possible 5.


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