Pendance Film Festival 2020: Our Review of ‘Straight Up’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, Pendance 2020 by - February 19, 2020
Pendance Film Festival 2020: Our Review of ‘Straight Up’

In Straight Up, James Sweeney serves as both actor, director, and writer. He plays the protagonist, Todd, who needs a therapist (Tracie Thoms!) to iron out his sexuality. Because homosexuality and heterosexuality fail him, because those are the only options in this world.

Todd eventually meets Rory (Katie Findlay), showing that maybe heterosexuality might work for him. They spend the first act in his really nice house exchanging pop culture references and witty banter. This can work out for people who are into that stuff.

Todd and Rory passed the first test of being a couple – they can mostly stand each other! The movie, then, gives them more hurdles as they spend time with his friends. In varying degrees, they question both their relationship and his new sexuality.

Sweeney shows promise in some of the scenes both as a director and writer. In one scene, Todd comforts Rory after sex, hinting at a trauma that he doesn’t reveal. But it still feels like a choice to reveal his neuroses over hers.

Todd’s aesthetically pleasing house also betrays a lazy fantasy that comes with privilege. He can afford all of this by being a closet organizer. A later scenes eventually reveal that his parents (Betsy Brandt and Randall Park) pay for his surprisingly competent psychiatrist.

Todd only positive influences include the psychiatrist and Rory. The rest of the people in his life are needlessly toxic. Again, it’s as if Todd can only be gay or lying. Apparently bisexuality, sexuality, and platonic relationships are alien concepts in present day Los Angeles.

These friends mark one of many things wrong with the script and this movie in general. It feels the need to narrow its horizons to pull of an otherwise sell-able concept. Forcing witty banter won’t hide a macro level mess.

For more information on Straight Up go to https://pendancefilmfestival.ca/straight-up/.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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