Feb 3, 2013

[Movies] Keep the Lights On (2012)

I keep gambling on various LGBT movies regardless of subject matter - it's part of my commitment to find new content to discuss and review on this blog, especially for those of you who look for more pink movies to watch. So yes, I take the risks so you don't have to! It's the same driving force behind any other reviewer when you think about it.

Now before I used to be pretty impressed the moment that I'd see a movie has those distinct symbols indicating that it won an award at some film festival. But over time you come to realize that you should just gauge the movie based on its content and forget what awards it seems to have. There are far too many independent film festivals out there and any decent movie is bound to get some attention sooner or later.

But that's how all of us should take any movie, really. While reviews like this can potentially guide you towards movies that you may be more inclined to like, at the end of the day it's up to you as a viewer to decide. And I think I'll have a somewhat contrary opinion this time around.

Synopsis: Keep the Lights On is a 2012 LGBT drama movie written and directed by Ira Sachs together with co-screenwriter Mauricio Zacharias. It premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and won the 2012 Teddy Award for Best Feature.

Erik (Thure Lindhardt) is a Danish actor who first meets Paul (Zachary Booth) via phone sex. Eventually the two meet-up in person and have sex and clearly enjoy one another's company. Outside of this tryst, Erik is very committed to his acting career. And he continues to meet other men on a casual basis including the rather physically impressive Russ (Sebastian La Cause).

Over time Erik and Paul spend more time together and begin to share more of their respective lives. Erik reveals that his past boyfriend, Paulo, has been confirmed to have AIDS, and naturally this scares Erik. Paul in turn has an addition to marijuana and eventually shares the experience with Erik. The two continue to become closer, however Erik continues to flirt with other guys and Paul continues to do drugs. And this inevitably puts a lot of strain on their budding relationship.

Over time as you watch more and more LGBT dramas, you inevitably encounter common themes across a lot of these movies. In terms of Keep the Lights On, we have quite a number of them including AIDS, lots of casual sex, infidelity, dysfunctional relationships and others. I could keep on listing but I don't want to spoil latter aspects of the movie just yet.

To be fair, the actors in this movie are pretty competent. While I'd never think of Lindhardt as being very masculine, as he was described by another character in the movie, he certainly has a quite intensity about him that presents his part of the story pretty well. It's hard to discuss Booth's acting skills though given a lot of the times he's supposed to be high and engaging in rather questionable behavior.

The core story is an appropriately sad and somber one - something that we have come to expect from such independent films, I feel. In the same way that a lot of local indie movies focus on the poverty that is ever-present, this movie covers a lot of ground that feels familiar to me, only because a lot of queer fiction seems to cover it was well. And that's neither here nor there - creatives try to tell the stories that they know and are most familiar to them. Thus we keep coming back to stories like this.

Keep the Lights On is not a bad movie, but personally did not feel all that new to me either. And maybe a large factor is the fact that I don't appreciate substance abuse and too much promiscuity as supposedly being practically traditions in pink culture. Thus I really can only rate the movie as 3.5 instances of Erik and Paul breaking up again out of a possible 5. It's a competent movie, but not an amazing one for me.

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