I ask, therefore I receive.
Being a supporter of the LGBTQ community, I’ve been very happy with seeing so many films about homosexuality coming out. Not that this is new, of course, but that they’re slowly garnering so much attention that it feels pretty new in my opinion. Granted, out of the few that I’ve seen, they weren’t especially amazing films, but they’re getting made more frequently, and that can only be good news for future films of this subject matter. So bring them on, make them good and represent well, and let’s get Hollywood to be more inclusive.
The story here looks like it’s about this young man amidst a sexual awakening. He has a girlfriend and lives life like a normal young man. But then another man comes into the picture and the young man starts to develop feelings for him, possibly homosexual or bisexual, likely going to cause the bulk of the drama. So clearly this is an sexual exploration film. Alright, I can work with that.
Here’s the cast. We have Timothée Chalamet (LADY BIRD , and upcoming films A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK  and BEAUTIFUL BOY ), Armie Hammer (CARS 3 , and upcoming films SORRY TO BOTHER YOU  and HOTEL MUMBAI ), Michael Stuhlbarg (THE SHAPE OF WATER , PAWN SACRIFICE , MEN IN BLACK 3 , and upcoming THE POST  and GORE ), Amira Casar (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS  and a ton of foreign projects, and the upcoming Call Me By Your Name sequel), and Esther Garrel (a ton of foreign projects and the upcoming Call Me By Your Name sequel).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Luca Guadagnino, known for- oh Christ… A BIGGER SPLASH (2016), which I was NOT a fan of. He’s also slated for upcoming films RIO (2018) and SUSPIRIA (2018). Penning the screenplay is James Ivory, known for THE DIVORCE (2003) and short documentaries. There is no composer for the film. The cinematographer is Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, known for a ton of unknown stuff, and the upcoming SUSPIRIA. Finally, the editor is Walter Fasano, known for A BIGGER SPLASH, a ton of foreign stuff, and the upcoming SUSPIRIA.
Overall, this looks like it could be good. I don’t know why they’re saying “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine” but, a rose by any color. I’m not exactly excited for it, but I’m curious. I’m just hoping it’s not boring.
This is my honest rating for: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
Set in the Summer of 1983, Italy. The story follows young Elio (Timothée Chalamet). He lives in Italy with his loving parents and has a beautiful girlfriend, Marzia (Esther Garrel). But when an American student, named Oliver (Armie Hammer), visits their home for the Summer to help Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) with his work, Elio slowly starts to feel an attraction to Oliver.
I think it’s kind of dull. Yup, I don’t agree with that 8.4/10 on IMDb (as of 12/19/2017). Not by a long shot. I mean, it’s not a bad movie, per se. Hell, I prefer this over A BIGGER SPLASH any day, but it’s nothing that I haven’t seen before.
The primary problem for me is the characters. They’re not very interesting. Elio starts off almost unlikable. When Oliver first arrives, Elio’s pretty dismissive and uncaring toward him, even purposely waking him up from a deep sleep… just so they can go eat dinner with his family. Dude, Oliver’s still probably suffering from jet-lag. Leave him alone. And he maintains that for a majority of the first half. He’s very abrasive and critical, and Oliver doesn’t do much to warrant it. I mean, okay, you can argue that it’s because he doesn’t really know that he has homosexual urges and he’s subtly lashing out as a defense mechanism, but he was being a jerk well before Oliver did much of anything. Even when their relationship mellows out to the point where Elio stops being so unreasonable, again, he just doesn’t seem interesting. I know that he has those scenes where he struggles with his urges, but I don’t feel like they get enough development. For every scene where he has trouble sleeping, he has another scene not long after where he’s trying to have sex with his girlfriend. It feels a little unfocused. Not to mention there’s some really weird-ass scenes. There’s a bit where Elio goes in Oliver’s room when he’s not around, takes Oliver’s swim trunks, smells them like a pervert smelling his girlfriend’s lingerie, and then… bizarrely puts them over his head… and then proceeds to thrust his hips, clearly imagining himself having sex with Oliver. Strangely enough, I accepted the sniffing thing, as that is a thing that people do, but putting the trunks over his head… that’s weird, not kinky. There’s another scene where Elio hollows out an apricot, and uses it to masturbate. Again, I’m not unaware of women masturbating with cucumbers and grinding on pillows to get themselves off, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that men do weird shit too, but… damn, I don’t think this was something I needed to see. There’s challenging, something that’s supposed to throw your preconceived notions about sexual exploration, and then there’s just… weird shit. I’d love to say that Oliver is different, but in place of everything that encompasses Elio, Oliver is just… kind of dull. Don’t get me wrong, both Chalamet and Hammer are solid actors, especially Hammer, who doesn’t get nearly enough credit as he deserves, but I just don’t see what kind of proverbial meat he can chew on as an artist. Either of them, really.
When the movie isn’t semi-failing at developing its characters, the movie pads out its two plus hour run time with scenes about art and history. To the educated, I’m sure this is a wet-dream kind of movie, but for the riffraff uncultured swine like myself, it’s BORING. I know, those scenes connect thematically to the characters and all that, but… really, I don’t think all of them do. Or if they are supposed to connect, it’s probably too subtle for my tastes. Hey, I’m not exactly asking the movie to talk down to me, but less time trying to be subtle, deep, and intellectual and more time trying to get the audience to connect with the characters as people would have been more beneficial. It’s like the movie is made by people who are educated and it knows it, and from my experiences, the educated love letting you know how educated they are by spouting random bits of information that barely ties into what you were talking about. But then again, that 8.4 clearly means I didn’t connect with it the same way as everyone else.
Another pet peeve I had with this movie is that it’s supposed to be about this young man’s homosexual awakening. I’ve said this countless times, but hear me out on this one. Because of this, you’d think this relationship about two homosexual men, there’d be some male nudity. This is a coming-of-age story, meaning there’s quite a bit of growing up to do. It’s an adult movie, and being an adult is acknowledging something as simple as male genitalia. They did this honestly in BEACH RATS (2017). They sure as hell went in shamelessly with female nudity and sexuality in THE HANDMAIDEN (2016), but this movie got under my skin for one reason only. There’s no male nudity. Now hold on before you get confused, there’s a reason for my dismay. This movie has no problem with showing female nudity. Oh yeah, out of two or three sexually charged scenes with the men, it’s all shown in shadows or implied nudity that’s covered. But in the one scene with a man and woman having sex, as soon as a woman’s bra comes off, the audience has to get an eyeful of that. You see my issues here? This isn’t a story about a young man learning about sex with his girlfriend. This is about him learning about his attraction and sexual desires for a man. Oh, sure. You see an ass once. Once. It’s like the movie wants to show audiences to accept homosexuality as just another branch of romance, but at the same time, being ashamed of what makes men… well, men. At the end of the day, though, I’m not a homosexual male. If the current ratings and reviews that praise this film, as well as the buzz for Oscar consideration is any indication, this movie is not representing my sexual orientation. Perhaps the homosexual community feels this movie perfectly represents them and I should keep my mouth shut and not be offended by something that has nothing to do with me. Fair enough, and if this movie moved you and spoke volumes, more power to you. Don’t let my views take away the experience you had.
Okay, so clearly I’m not a fan of the film. But does that mean I think it’s bad? Eh… no. I’ve seen far worse films that are supposed to be pro-homosexuality, but actually come across as homophobic to the umpteenth degree. This film clearly has good intentions and I can respect it for that. Every once in awhile, there’s a good laugh. Like when Elio comments that he almost had sex with Marzia, and then his dad says, “So why didn’t you?” That got a laugh out of me. The cinematography was nice, showing off a decent amount of charm of the Italian countryside, so if nothing else, the film is pretty to look at. Also, much as I complain about Elio, there are hints of solid personality as a young man who does know what he wants from Oliver and is refreshingly direct about it. It’s just too bad that wasn’t his character throughout the story.
Finally, and this isn’t a complaint, but IMDb doesn’t credit a composer for the music, but there is clearly a score that plays in certain scenes. And it’s not like a live piano being played over a scene, or a character playing something off to the right somewhere, it’s just music acting like a score. So… what gives? Anyone have an idea how a score can be playing and no composer credited? Or did IMDb screw up and if I bothered to stick around for the credits, I would have seen a name?
Overall, I can’t say this movie was my cup of tea. Sure, I may not be the target demographic, but a good movie should be able to subvert that. I’ve seen better homosexual exploration films and this feels… average. It’s not awful, or even really that bad, but it makes some questionable decisions that I didn’t connect with. Again, if you enjoyed this film and thought it poignant, then great. And I do wish the cast all the best in future endeavors and that they go on to do to great work. There’s no shortage of talent to be found here. I, however, don’t think I’ll be watching it a second time and I don’t think I’m giving it a high recommendation. I say if you’re interested, go for it and give it a shot. Everyone else seems to like it, so don’t let my opinion turn you away. I’ve got a name to call this: dull and uninspired.
My honest rating for CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: 3/5