Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Keiynan Lonsdale is a Black Australian actor who is probably best known for his role on CW’s The Flash (2014). Lonsdale played a speedster super-hero starting in that show’s second season. Lonsdale also appeared in Love, Simon (2018), which was marketed as the first film from a major Hollywood studio to focus on a gay teenage romance. It was one of a few Hollywood romantic comedies, focusing on a LGBTQ relationship and protagonist. 20th Century Fox produced Love, Simon and Fox was considered a major Hollywood studio. It’s taken a while, but this year will see more Hollywood studio films focusing on LGBTQ romances, such as Fire Island (2022), which was produced by Searchlight Pictures, a former subsidiary of 20th Century Fox, and Bros (2022), produced by Universal Pictures. This film isn’t coming from a major Hollywood studio. It comes from BuzzFeed and Lionsgate. Neither of those companies would be considered a major Hollywood studio, but I would say Lionsgate is close enough to being major that I would still put this film on the same level as Fire Island or Bros or even Love, Simon.
Lonsdale stars as Andrew, a stuntman who works on TV shows and films. Currently, he’s employed on a TV show called “Hampton’s Bay.” He lives in New York City, even though this film was not shot there. He has two friends who really care about him. He also has a boyfriend who strangely doesn’t care about him. Andrew is dating a celebrity named Nico, played by Marcus Rosner. Nico is an actor on the same show where Andrew works, but Nico doesn’t want anyone to know he’s dating Andrew. Nico is in the closet or his sexuality might not be totally public. Nico’s sexuality, though, isn’t his only secret. Nico is also cheating on Andrew.
Dylan Sprouse (The Suite Life of Zack & Cody) co-stars as Jake, a graphic designer who is one of Andrew’s friends and arguably his best friend. Jake is there to pick up the pieces when Andrew learns of Nico’s affair or affairs. Andrew has a tendency to go back to Nico even after learning he’s cheated. Jake gets frustrated with this tendency, so he does something that is akin to catfishing but with a twist. Jake uses his computer skills to concoct a social media profile of a guy that he makes people believe is Andrew’s new partner, mostly to keep Nico away.
Things get out of control when this fake media profile blows up into a worldwide star that becomes the most popular thing on the Internet. A large chunk of the film is Jake trying to perpetuate the lie that this pretend person named “Cristiano” is real. It gets to a point that this film does more than make you have to suspend your disbelief. One has to kill all logical and reasonable thought in order to accept where this film goes. Yes, this film is a comedy and where it goes is all about pushing the comedic premise to its limits and perhaps beyond its extremes. The film is in effect spoofing or satirizing a lot about Internet culture and Millennial culture, but it becomes a bit of a jarring tone shift. At first, I thought I was watching something akin to My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), only to discover that I’m actually watching Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997). It’s not to say that films can’t have a tone shift like that and make it work, but I’m not sure this one pulls it off.
Samer Salem (The Expanse and The Handmaid’s Tale) also co-stars as Rafi, the chef and co-owner of a really nice restaurant. He also makes time to give cooking lessons. He’s tall. He’s handsome. In fact, he’s drop-dead gorgeous. He’s mature and very well put together. He’s almost perfect. He also seems to be of Middle Eastern descent. Watching Andrew fall in love with Rafi is probably the best part of this film. Seeing two beautiful men of color have a sweet romance is actually great. Unfortunately, that aspect is minimized to being basically the C-story of this overall narrative.
It’s almost conditional that Hollywood rom-coms need a gimmick, which usually involves someone lying. This gimmick is normally tolerable, but it’s different here. The protagonist is typically the one who is doing the lying. Here, it’s not really Andrew who is doing the lying. It’s Jake. Andrew is pulled along, but it’s not really Andrew’s lie. Jake’s obsession with “Cristiano” sucks up a lot of the plot here that it diverts from what Andrew and Rafi are experiencing, which is the point, but it’s not as engaging because if the protagonist of the film doesn’t care, why should the audience?
Director Rose Troche is a fifty-something, Puerto Rican lesbian from Chicago. She started her career in the independent queer cinema scene with entries, such as Go Fish (1994) and Bedrooms and Hallways (1998). She’s mainly been directing television for the past 20 years with her signature series being The L Word (2004), a Showtime program about a group of lesbians. She has done a wealth of other things from Law & Order to All American. This is her first narrative feature since 2001. The Internet scam part is pretty disposable. What’s significant is that it stands out from most romantic comedies in that it’s centered on a same-sex relationship, an interracial same-sex relationship at that between two men of color. It’ll stand out as such, but it won’t overshadow something like Fire Island.
Rated R for alcohol use and nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.
Available on Amazon Prime.