Max Richardson (Brandon Flynn) wears bandages on his face daily. To some strangers he explains it away, telling them that he wears it because of a fall. But to others, he reveals his reasons for the bandages, his way of protecting others from his face so beautiful it can kill.
That is Kellen Moore’s Looks That Kill’s outlandish premise, one that it tries to take as seriously as it can in a romantic comedy. It competently sells the idea being too beautiful can cause suicidal thoughts. It also pushes the idea that someone arrives in time to talk Alex out of jumping off a bridge. Good old deus ex machina.
That person is Alex (Julia Goldini Telles), and they develop a friendship where they hang out. And there is a delight in watching these hangout sessions. One session involves them jumping in a bathtub full of jellybeans, competently adding one visual gag on top of another.
Alex also takes Max to an old folks home as a way to show him how other people deal with mortality. To not take his life for granted, even if his perfect face causes him to have an imperfect life. Returning to his perfect face, that’s a gag in itself since it never shows Flynn’s face. I’m not familiar with his work but his fan following makes me assume that he has matinee idol looks.
Scenes like ones in the old folks home round out the film as well as expose the way Flynn and Telles flesh out their characters’ curiosity and wit. That said, there is a push and pull between how silly or seriously it is going to take its premise. And that conflict is what drags this film behind.
Being the weird guy with the face bandages is difficult enough. But it tries too hard to drive that point by contrasting Max with his best friend Dan (Ki Hong Lee). Portraying Dan as a cool Asian would have been a step forward. But adding a foreign exchange student, Yu Shen (Monique Kim), in the mix, is a step back.
Max and Dan’s scenes are also not the best way to showcase both actors’ talents. Dan says something corny and Max would roll his eyes at it, which Flynn can do well enough, but the script should allow him to do more.
I also kind of like the idea that the main characters are adolescents, but Max’s condition takes them outside of the high school setting. But what was the point of freeing them from that setting only to walk it back to high school rom com set pieces like spring flings?
Looks That Kill also takes a left turn by using Max’s face to discuss a very controversial topic. It addresses that topic progressively and subtly, almost, until topic becomes part of something a supporting character deals with. A female character’s arc becomes part of a male protagonist’s pain. That trope takes something out of an otherwise edgy picture.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
- Release Date: 6/20/2020
- Directed by: Kellen Moore
- Starring: Brandon Flynn, Julia Goldini Telles, Ki Hong Lee, Monique Kim
- Produced by: Austin Sepulveda, Glen Trotiner, Jeremy Garelick, Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon
- Written by: Kellen Moore
- Studio: American High, LD Entertainment