The Art Of Being Straight is one of those movies that just sort of happens. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, but it merely drifts along and then stops, rather than offering you any reason to engage with it.
Jon (played by writer/director Jesse Rosen) is on a break from his girlfriend and decides to move from New York to LA, and take a room with his old college buddy and his macho mates, who are the kind of jocks that can’t complete a sentence without using the word gay as a pejorative (although their homophobia is unthinking rather than genuine hatred). Jon’s new boss immediately takes an interest in him and they end up sleeping together, which understandably causes the young man to get a bit confused about his sexual identity, worrying about whether he’s gay, bisexual or just experimenting, and how his friends might react to the news.
Meanwhile his lesbian uni mate Maddy also has a bit of an identity crisis when she finds herself becoming attracted to the guy who’s just moved in next door. However is this a real change in sexual preference or just a fantasy she wouldn’t want actually want to act upon?
This micro-budget, indie effort certainly has its heart in the right place. It’s obvious those involved have realised there are a lot of issues that surround many modern, metrosexual 20-somethings and the shifting boundaries of identity they have to negotiate, but the problem is it doesn’t really get much further than saying that sometimes a straight man might sleep with a bloke and occasionally lesbians might fantasise about straight sex, and that if that happens, it might be a bit confusing. The film gently but honestly observes modern life, and the mumblecore cast do their best to give life to this portrait of 20-somethings dealing with their post-university identity, but ultimately it’s less a story than someone saying, ‘here’s something that might happen’.
There’s no real resolution, realisation or change in the characters, as if the director is terrified of actually saying anything, whether because he doesn’t know what to say, or because he thinks that having a proper plot would ruin his indie slice-of-life credentials. And then just when you think it might actually be gearing up for some sort of conclusion, the film simply stops, almost as if they’ve given up halfway through a scene. I know it’s something some indie filmmakers like to do, but The Art of Being Straight doesn’t really have the chops to pull it off.
You’re left with a movie that while sweet and with some charm, never gets past saying, ‘sometimes sexual identity can be confusing’, without really going much deeper than that. It’s not exactly a revelation, and as a result, it’s difficult to see quite what the point of the film is.
Overall Verdict: If you didn’t know that sometimes sexual identity can be confusing, you might get something out of this, otherwise it’s a film that will just pass by your eyes leaving little impression.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac