Thursday, May 17, 2012

Exhibitionism nonpareil! Matt D'Elia's AMERICAN ANIMAL gets limited release

When does performing turn into pure exhibitionism? Truthfully, Trust-Movies isn't certain of the answer, since all performing is a kind of exhibitionism, with any line of demarcation so constantly crossed that it becomes less a line than a large smudge. Still, as someone once said regarding pornog-raphy -- "I know it when I see it" -- and Matt D'Elia's new film AMERICAN ANIMAL comes about as close to the definition as I've seen in a long while. (The definition of exhibitionism, that is, not pornography.) Mr. D'Elia, pictured below, is the writer, director, co-star (he's the star, really, as he gets a lot more screen time than co-actor Brendan Fletcher), co-producer and co-editor of the film.

When I began watching American Animal, my companion was seated next to me on the sofa. Within five -- max ten -- minutes, he had taken a powder and I was left alone. At that point, I have to tell you that, were I not watching a screener sent to me by the film's publicist, I would have joined him. (TM has a rule that, if he receives a free screener or goes to a free screening, he finishes watching and then covers the movie in question, no matter what.) Cleaning out the cat litter would have seemed preferable to watching Mr. D'Elia (who plays a fellow named Jimmy) -- looking like a gangly, near-nude, long-haired freak -- scream and rant (sometimes in his own made-up language) at his roommate James (Mr. Fletcher), his life, himself and, I guess, us.

This screaming and ranting goes on and on and fucking on until, if begging for mercy would do any good, we surely would. Why does James put up with Jimmy, we wonder? Are they perhaps gay lovers? No. That idea is put to rest almost immediately. Well, maybe Jimmy is wealthy and is "allowing" James to stay with him. No. Both young men are wealthy and will never have any "money" worries. So the behavior on display makes even less sense.

Two young women stop by -- whom the cast list calls Blond Angela (Mircea Monroe, above) and Not Blond Angela (Angela Sarafyan, below). Ah-hah. Do we see a metaphor forming? Could James and Jimmy be two sides of the same coin: Jimmy the exhausting rebel and James more the conformist type? And the women, their ministering angels? (Well, they would have to be to put up with these two guys.)  Even if this interpretation is valid, so what? "Give my world a chance!" begs Jimmy at one point in the film. "I'm not even charging admission." No, dear, at this point it's we who should be charging you.

Soon the blond is having sex with Jimmy (well, he is rich -- could he have hired these girls? -- and if the outline we so noticeably see under his shorts is any indication, he might have a big cock, and he did shower during those first few minutes of the film so presumably he doesn't smell, although he does spit up blood....) All this runs through one's mind as one tries to come up with any possible reason that these two young women have remained in the apartment. For the first half-hour and then into the next half hour, so much time is wasted with shenanigans that are only mildly interesting (is or is not Jimmy "off" drugs?) and dialog that is repetitive in the extreme (why say something once when you can scream it five or ten times?!) that the movie becomes little more than an endurance test.

The plot, such as it is, turns on the film's single event up to now: James (above) has surreptitiously taken an office job, and Jimmy feels betrayed. Then, at the hour point, another event happens and Jimmy is revealed nude, full frontal and semi-erect (did I mention exhibitionism?). Now, at least, all that teasing in his tight boxer shorts is given closure. It's at this point that D'Elia's movie begins to take on vague power and a forward thrust (no pun intended).

As Jimmy begs James not to go to work, at last we hear something that could be construed as a philosophy, and a few somewhat interesting ideas about (de)evolution, wealth, capitalism, consumerism, couch potato-ism, and other things of current interest or importance. At last. This makes that final half hour (the film is 95 minutes long) infinitely better than the first hour. But why set up a crazy, unpleasant endurance test for your mice before you finally give them a piece of cheese? Plus, this is not what you would call, in your most forgiving moments, profound cheese. It'll appeal most to the younger set and those insisting on something different -- damn the intelligence quotient. But at least it is more nourishment than we've been given up to now.

Also on the plus side are some pleasant visuals, occasionally interesting framing, bright catchy colors, and nice classical music. Mr. D'Elia has certainly concocted a movie guaranteed to divide critics and audiences, and it will be interesting to see if and what he comes up with next. Meanwhile, American Animal opens tomorrow, Friday, May 18, in Manhattan at the Village East Cinema. More playdates may follow around the country if enough of an audience turns out here in New York City.

No comments: