Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Rebuke You Him That Loves You SO?

After the post on Kurt and Glee, I thought it a good idea to post something that I thought was a positive depiction of gay teens in media, in this case cinema.

A reposting of my review of Were the World Mine.

The premise of Were the World Mine is romantic comedy trope: character A yearns for the love and affection of unattainable character B, then though a series of hi-jinks, true love wins in the end. That is about where the comparison ends as everything else is turned on its ear in Tom Gustafson's big screen adaptation of his own short film Fairies.

The film's tagline, ‘If you could make someone love you, would you?’ Is honestly, unexpectedly answered, "Obviously."

The first twist to the romantic comedy trope is that the lead couple is two young men. In the film our put-upon hero Timothy (Tanner Cohen), is cast as Puck in his senior production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. During rehearsal, he happens on the recipe to recreate the flower, here called a pansy in a nice play on words, which Puck uses on Shakespeare’s lovers. Timothy/Puck uses the pansy first on his unrequited crush Jonathon (Nathaniel David Becker), then on his classmates, and then the town, allowing everyone to see the world through his eyes. By the end of the film, as in Shakespeare's play, all is peace.

Of course, Timothy is hardly the usual trodden-down gay lead. This is not some Cinderella story with the homely, or even 'Hollywood Ugly' lead forlornly in love with someone quite beyond him; Timothy is a pretty boy himself. His only claim to the ill will of his classmates is that he is out of the closet. A situation that led to the dissolution of his parents’ marriage, and caused him trouble at previous schools. In another breath of fresh air, this is a young gay man not afraid of a fight.

Timothy's coming out story happens before the movie takes place, and we are allowed to move on with other interesting stuff, i.e. getting the boy you like, to like you. There is one brief, almost archaic 'why are you gay' scene between Timothy and his mother Donna (Judy McLane). One briefly wonders why the scene is even in the film, but then you remember the current headlines and realize the struggle is still very real and ongoing, and these conversations still happen all the time.

Timothy's love Jonathon is not the typical, unattainable ideal man. We are shown in subtle ways that he is just as interested in Timothy, as Timothy is in him. Oh, were things only a bit different, eh? Enter the pansy. Likewise Jonathon is shown as being worthy of his Timothy's love. It is a nice departure. In other films, the only thing this type of character has going for it, is their looks, but Jonathon is quite game. From the start of the film, he shows an interest in Timothy, seemingly falling for him while watching his singing audition. He is also up for the challenges of the school play. The boys attend an all-male prep school, so they will be playing all the female roles in the show as well, just as in Shakespeare's time. The pansy merely prompts Jonathon to overcome his normal, social inhibitions in pursuing Timothy. It does not make him love Timothy, he was already well on his way.

This is not an adaptation of Midsummer Night's Dream, but it does have plot points tacked on from that play. Helen Fielding did the same thing tacking on Jane Austen's plot from Pride and Prejudice to the novel Bridget Jones's Diary. Timothy at various points is Puck, Oberon, Bottom and Helena. Perhaps the most perfect descriptive combination for a young gay man; part fairy, part imp, part fool, and unrequited lover. Jonathon, likewise can be both Titania and Lysander, depending on where you are in the film. Mrs. Tibbet (Wendy Robie), described elsewhere as sort of sorceress, is nothing less than Puck, hirself. There are two subtle moments where Tibbet is watering the plants in her classroom, clearly nurturing the seeds she has planted to bloom. The Puck/Tibbet connection is drawn sharply in some of the fantasy sequences, as well.

The fantasy sequences are not really fantasy though. They are a part of the plot; they are literally magic spells that movie the movie along. In one of my favorite numbers, 'All Things Shall Be Peace', Timothy is pulled from Jonathon's arms asking, "You rent our ancient love asunder?" Gay love set to Shakespeare and well done at that.

The music and lyrics are inspired. Shakespeare interpolated and set to music, may hardly be revolutionary, but it is still quite fun and infectious. I find myself listening to the soundtrack repeatedly. Tanner Cohen is wonderful and has a slight sibilant 'S' that is quite endearing.

Tom Gustafson is definitely a director and writer to watch, he spins a fun engaging yarn with genuine moments of poignancy. Some of the imagery in the film is iconic and arresting. It is hardy without flaws, but the the music and the performances buoy you along over those flaws. Cohen and Becker are especially good. It is flawed, and the are leaden moments, but overall I would not change a frame.

Were the World Mine available at Amazon, and on iTunes.

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