Jan 18, 2015

[Movies] Almost Normal (2005)

One of the interesting aspects to LGBT movies is how much new territory there is to cover. There's so much opportunity to retell familiar stories but with plot twists that are unique to the LGBT community. Even at this point in time, I still feel that there are so many unexplored ideas or situations that are totally worth exploring in a movie.

So Almost Normal came up at random in my queue for potential movies and I just went for it. I had only read the most basic synopsis of the movie before getting a copy and it seems it wasn't too bad a decision.

And while this wasn't quite the best movie out there, it certainly had a really interesting premise at its core. It thought this was going to be some sort of Freaky Friday type of story with a body switch or something. But hey, it's nice to be wrong and the actual plot was really different.

I can't say that I didn't like the movie entirely. The movie really had a lot of potential that could have been explored in detail or something. But that's me.

Synopsis: Almost Normal is a 2005 LGBT comedy drama written and directed by Marc Moody. The movie won the Best of the Fest award at the 2005 Breckenridge Festival of Film.

Brad Jenkins (J. Andrew Keitch) is a 40 year old professor who's starting to feel bad about how his life has turned out. He's still a single gay man despite his best efforts and his family doesn't quite show full appreciation for the difficulties that he deals with. A bit of a reunion puts him into contact with old friends from his high school days and he ends up wishing that he had grown up more"normal". A series of events then takes place that ends with him getting into a minor accident after driving off in a huff.

What surprises Brad is when he wakes up as a much younger version of himself, back in those high school days. But there's a major difference here - being gay is considered the norm and being straight is the reviled and often criticized gender identity. Thus boys pair up with boys and girls pair up with girls and everyone is fine with this. The only real quirk is how kids still happen - apparently individuals of the opposite sex agree to have kids together, but they do not raise them together as a family unit. And thus Brad is finally "normal" in this alternate reality - and how he deals with this version of the world is really where the movie lies.

Keitch made for an interesting enough actor to play the lead role. I could sorta believe he was an older guy with the glasses and the horribly unruly curly hair in the beginning and he cleans up pretty well when he reverts to his high school self. Not every actor who plays both older and younger versions makes this transition as well, but at least they tried. For the most part you only tell folks were more serious in the beginning was because they were dressed more formally while later on they're only wearing stereotypical stuff like sports jerseys and whatnot. But maybe we're just talking about appearances here.

Dialog was a little awkward - both in terms of writing and actual delivery. It's hard to tell what context people are saying things in terms of their pop culture basis and such. You get random Judy Garland mentions that stand out because they seem so unusual compared to everything else that is said. This challenge plagues most folks in the movie and it's a little sad to state that Keitch was the best actor in the movie, but hardly a great actor on his own merits. He just looks good in comparison.

I keep talking about how I liked the premise of the movie, and I won't like. I think there was a tremendous opportunity to really think about what the world would be like if being gay was normal but the ideas didn't quite get as developed as they needed to be before they were crafted into this movie's plot. Maybe it just suffered from poor production values? Could this movie have been shot in a more professional manner to tell the story better? It's really hard to say.

Then there's the twist - the bit where our originally gay Brad in a now gay-is-normal world still ends up being a "deviant" since he gets involved with a girl. It's bad enough that we've glossed over how this car accident sends him to this alternate reality, but to have him actually start to become straight in order to prove...what? Was this to show that he'll never be normal? Does the nature of this alternate world affect his identity to that degree that he ends up getting sexually involved with a girl? What's going on?

The movie leaves you with a lot of questions like this and thus ends up feeling a little hollow. The effort to give Brad a happy ending at the end felt tacked on and a tad contrived, but at least they tried right?

Almost Normal is not a normal movie in terms of concept but it also wasn't normal in terms of execution. There was a kernel of a good idea here but then things got mixed up and muddied in the creative process and the end result was less than satisfactory. So I can only rate the movie as 2 silly twists since everyone is gay out of a possible 5.


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