I have to say when I read the synopsis for The Last Straight Man I was a little concerned. It all seemed a tad gimmicky, with the kind of ambition that few low-budget, gay-themed movies can live up to. Thankfully though I was pleasantly surprised when I actually saw the movie.
There aren’t many gay films that open with a scene in which a female stripper is dancing for a bunch of guys – indeed you’d think it was anathema for this type of flick – but it’s Cooper’s (Scott Sell) bachelor party and so strippers are the order of the day. At the end of the evening Cooper is left with his best friend Lewis (Mark Cirillo), talking about their lives and loves – however Cooper doesn’t know Lewis is bisexual (on his way to accepting he’s gay), and when he admits that fact, Lewis is pleased that Cooper is surprised but not horrified.
Indeed, as the evening wears on, it turns out Cooper isn’t too bothered at all, as while he’s never messed around with a guy before, he ends up doing so with Lewis. This is the beginning of an annual event, where the two guys meet in a hotel to catch up and screw around. It’s supposed to just be fun, but as we see four more of these evenings over the course of 12 years, it becomes clear that while both men initially want to keep it simple, it isn’t that for either of them. Lewis cannot help but fall for his friend, while Cooper may wish it was just an escape from his wife and children, but there’s undoubtedly a deep connection to Lewis.
It’s a very entertaining film and manages to transcend its deliberately constrained set-up, allowing its five-nights-over-12 years setup to feel organic rather than pretentious. The script is smart and keeps you pulled in, with Scott Sell and Mark Cirillo extremely good in the central roles of two men trying to figure out both themselves and their sexuality – as well as how our actions may not match the labels we like to use if we go by the dictionary definition.
There is admittedly the potential issue that two people who start having sex just before one of them gets married and then continue the affair for another decade, don’t sound particularly sympathetic. However you can’t help but start to root for them and their happiness, whether it involves Cooper and Lewis staying together or not. Both are on a difficult journey and as they challenge their boundaries they keep you on their side.
I really did enjoy The Last Straight Man far more than I expected to, with the movie delivering an entertaining story, plenty of sexiness and two characters it’s extremely interesting to get to know. It may obviously have been made on a shoestring, but it handles its limitations extremely well. Saying it’s Before Sunrise meets Brokeback Mountain would be rather hyperbolic, but you can certainly feel the echoes.
Overall Verdict: Thanks to a well-written script and the very sexy Scott Sell and Mark Cirillo, The Last Straight Man is a film that could have seemed a bit gimmicky but turns out to be entertaining, fun and rather racy.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac