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We went last night to by far the funniest new film of the year so far,
THE MOSTLY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREEN, an R rated (a few
decades ago it would have been considered an X) release drawn rather
brilliantly from a not-so-brilliant but long running comic strip in a
number of "alternate" publications.
I was never a big fan of the strip which was crudely drawn and heavy handed in conception - or so it seemed in the papers and the several compilation books published - but on screen at New York's Quad Cinema, the characters are almost *perfectly* cast to resemble more attractive versions of the cartoon characters and screen writer David Vernon has been given latitude to smooth out and improve on the hilarious conundrums in Generation-X Ethan's self destructive social life (finding an intriguing blend of lots of sex but all too little satisfaction).
In some ways, this is a gay-male version of SEX AND THE CITY: whenever Ethan finds an almost perfect mate, you KNOW he will somehow screw it up (no pun intended). Right now, it's being marketed to a largely gay audience, but it's so well written and directed (feel-good date movie, "independent" variety), it should cross over to a much wider audience and deserves to do for the actor playing Ethan (Daniel Letterle from CAMP!) what BILLY'S Hollywood SCREEN KISS did for "Will & Grace's" Sean Hayes.
The movie is as episodic as Voltaire's Candide, but just as perceptive, and the very episodic nature gives the entire supporting cast (ranging from Meridith Baxter's all too supportive mother to Joel Brooks & Richard Riehle's "Hat Sisters" to Dean Shelton's oversexed teen entrepreneur, "Punch," to Rebecca Lowman's Ann Coulter look-alike/psychotically depressed real estate agent, "Sunny Deals") equal chances to shine, and shine they do.
The grand farce scene where ALL the romantic threads (including, in addition to the above, an ex-football pro, a landlord ex-lover, a Log Cabin Republican fiancé and Ethan's lesbian roommate) come together in the house where Ethan is trying to carve out a coherent love life tops one great laugh with another as if Feydeau-plotted and will have you howling.
Silly, sunny summer fun, and *highly* recommended to straight and gay alike open minded enough to laugh at a very funny but true look at how the other half (or at least a goodly younger part of 10%) loves. Stick around after the fine double ending for the playing cards from the plot significant "Dream Date" board game scattered through the credit "crawl." Its a device that hasn't been used as well since FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF.
If you're looking for a slight cross between "The Broken Hearts Club"
and "The Breakfast Club", it's right here. Not one of the best movies
I've seen but if you liked Daniel Letterle in "Camp!" then here's your
chance to see him get even more gay! He's still starting out as an
actor so a role like this was a bit of a gamble. There's some minor
things that I think could've been improved upon but all in all, I
didn't feel like I wasted my time after watching it.
If there's a message to be derived from the movie, it's probably "Gay people have problems, too!" Incidentaly, that would've also served as a better title for the film as well!
Daniel did seem a bit ill at ease during some of the more "gayer" scenes. But then again, who wouldn't with an entire film crew (and possibly his girlfriend) on the set watching your every move. Give the guy a break. Of course, Daniel wasn't the only one in the film. The other actors I felt played their parts to a tee!
PS Daniel Letterle... do some more musicals!! ;)
After reading so many horrible reviews of this film I had to muster up
strength to even go see it. To be honest, the only reason I went was to
see Letterle, whom I've had a thing for since the movie musical Camp.
However, I got a lot out of it! It's the first time I've seen a gay
movie that wasn't about coming out, wasn't about breaking straight
girls hearts, and was based more in , well, reality??.........I do say
But honestly, the 30 people who were in the theatre with me, inluding my boyfriend, were laughing the whole time. I really enjoyed the movie. It was very entertaining.
I just wanted to give a quick review and say that I really enjoyed this
movie. I saw it at a gay film festival in Austin, and the audience was
in a constant laughing uproar. I don't know what film festival the
other review went to, but I think it was in D.C.
I didn't notice any bad acting. I quite enjoyed it. The dates he went on and the people he met were all too real. It very-much resembles the gay scene in a humorous way. One of the last scenes was very American Pie style, and it was a riot! Loved every minute of this movie.
As a gay guy, previously straight, I enjoyed this movie and hope it sees a DVD soon.
The movie was never trying to be ground breaking or amazing. its a light hilarious movie with broad generalizations that everyone can identify with. Anyone who gives this movie a low rating was looking for too much. Why cant we make a movie for fun sake? Not every gay movie has to try to better our position in the world. This is a movie that could have come from a group of gay guys sitting around joking and laughing about the day to day grind of our lives. I would recommend it to anyone tired of the epic Greek tragedy of most gay films. For some reason every gay film has to have drug use, Pain and most often the death and or beating of one if not all of the people in it. For once we have a gay movie that takes a lighter view of our FABULOUS way of life.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a pleasure this film is! It is so light, fun and breezy that you
want it to go on.
I have to confess, I have never seen the comic strip that the film is based on, so I didn't know what to expect, but what I got was a truly funny film.
This is what gay cinema should strive for when it comes to making comedies. I saw this film at a gay & lesbian festival in Chicago and there were plenty of other comedies that felt like they were all the same. (Boy meets boy, boy likes boy, boy goes after boy, boy has sex with other boys, boy gets boy, boy dumps boy, boy gets boy. Or the usual recent contraption of boy likes girl, boy pretends to be gay to befriend girl, etc. etc.)
And might I add, why isn't Meredith Baxter in more movies? She kicked ass in this and looks as beautiful as ever. I want to see her everywhere now. Who knew Alex P. Keaton's mom would end up as a funny and snarky mom who lives with her gay son's ex-boyfriend and has a potty mouth! Classic.
All in all, if you get a chance to see this film, do it. No idea when it will be on video or out in theatres (other then its festival run), but remember the name.
A funny line from a funny song, but somehow it captures the mood of
this light little comedy, made with enough wit and ingenuity to keep
our attention, rehashing some tired gay stereotypes with a fresh
approach, and in the end just offering a pastiche that should find an
appreciative audience. George Bamber takes on his first directing role
and uses a comic strip (Eric Orner) translated for the screen by David
Vernon and populates his movie with an attractive cast of men (and
women) and ably manages to make the individual frames of a comic strip
almost become a smooth storyline.
Ethan Green (the talented Daniel Letterle) has problems with relationships: he has been in many from Juarez (Ramon De Ocampo) who still lives with Ethan's gay boy loving mother Harper (Meredith Baxter), to previously closeted baseball player Leo (Diego Serrano), to Kyle (David Monahan) to the very young Punch (Dean Shelton). The crux of the story revolves around the difficulty of selling Leo's house and the ways in which the various ex-lovers interact provides the somewhat frustrating line of dialogue.
Comic relief is supplied by two elderly gentlemen known as the Hat Sisters (Joel Brooks and Richard Riehle) as well as the shenanigans of the real estate people. Of course we know from the beginning who will end up with whom, but the getting there is fairly fun. The cast obviously has such a good time with the film that they forget to enunciate and so much of the dialogue is swallowed. But they are all fun to watch so it matters little that the superficial aspects of the story remain sub rosa. Grady Harp, October 06
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Ethan Green strip isn't the funniest thing on the planet but it's
not Family Circle/Garfield bad. Given that it's been going on forever,
there was plenty of material there to make a slim (80 minutes-ish,
minus opening and closing credits) movie. The problem was that they
picked the wrong material to make a movie from and the wrong actor to
build a movie around. Daniel Letterle is just plain wrong for Ethan, he
comes across as too nelly and too stupid, and his body type and hair
coloring are also wrong. The rest of the performances are adequate or
what you would expect from a low budget movie put together in a few
weeks. Again, the problem is both the script and the direction. It's
basically a bad, sitcom level plot strung together over a 2.5 episode
arc to make it into a movie level movie.
Some of the other aspects in the movie (the interstellar romance Ethan has or the Hat Sisters) would have made a better full length feature, but the producers probably felt that what limited audience it could get would be with the hints of nudity and romance. Unfortunately, they just leave you cold, especially in this day and age when porn is so readily available and better romance can be viewed for free in short films on Logo, to name just one outlet.
Frankly, given that they were able to make something as unfunny as Queer Duck into an animated feature (which actually was helped by a full length story), it would have made far more sense for Ethan to also have been an animated feature and also would have allowed for far more opportunity for the more interesting aspects of the comic strip to be filmed.
In THE MOSTLY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREEN, there is one great
laugh: As two of the characters argue with each other in a bookstore,
all the shelves are packed tight, except the one marked "Lesbian
Humor," which only has one volume. Okay, it's not a great laugh, but it
is a nice little chuckle. And the viewers should be grateful for that,
because otherwise as a romantic comedy ETHAN GREEN is pretty skimpy
with both the romance and the comedy.
Based on a cult gay comic strip of the same name, ETHAN GREEN seems to be trying to say something socially relevant about contemporary gay relationships. And while the film isn't wanting in imagination or even inspiration, it regrettably reflects its comic strip source by being strangely flat and two dimensional. The jokes are there, but like Eric Orner's artwork in the original comics, they are drawn with little style or depth or skill.
Ethan is an unlucky-in-love, self-proclaimed "serial monogamist." At 26, an age when most men -- whether gay or straight -- are searching for anything other than a lifetime romantic/sexual commitment, Ethan is going through a mid-life crisis worrying about his biological clock and a fear of dying an old maid. Despite his almost desperate desire to find his soulmate, the has an equally desperate need to find something wrong with every potential Mr. Right. Both things seem to preoccupy his every waking thought, but then again, Ethan doesn't seem to have anything else going on his life, such as a job. And even his strangely anonymous suburban home is devoid of evidence of his existence, without so much as a MOULIN ROUGE! movie poster or a Streisand album in sight to indicate a gay man is on the premises.
As played by Daniel Letterle with an almost-campy almost-swishiness, Ethan is clearly a gay stereotype, yet he remains curiously devoid of a personality. Surrounded by non-stereotypical characters, who nonetheless have obvious personality quirks that define them, Ethan is arguably the least interesting character in the story. His lovers, past and present, include a hot Latino boytoy (to whom Ethan's mother plays fag hag); a nerdy bookstore owner; a fresh-out-of-the-closet professional jock; and a 19-year-old sexually adventurous twink, all of whom are hung up on Ethan to some degree -- though God knows why. There is also a gay Republican, which the story treats as a perpetual joke, (and the less said about The Hat Sisters, a pair of burly aging transvestites, the better). We are supposed to wonder which of these guys Ethan will ultimately pick, though we also might rightly wonder which one will ultimately get stuck with Ethan. Ethan's focus seems to be on avoiding the wrong choice and not making the right one, a subtle, but telling difference.
The strangest thing about the film is that Ethan is this unfunny dead weight at the center of everything. Virtually everybody else is almost joyously upbeat; like Meredith Baxter as Ethan's mom, whose acceptance of her son's homosexuality has inspired her to be a wedding planner for civil unions. Even Rebecca Lowman as Sunny Deal, a chronically depressed lesbian real estate agent, manages to make her character's suicidal depression amusing. And an especially bright light in the film is Dean Shelton as Punch Epstein, the twink who is still high on being out and sees gay sex as a game with few rules and endless possibilities. If someone in the film has to be deemed "fabulous," Shelton's performance earns him the right. (It's just a pity the film isn't THE MOSTLY FABULOUS SEXUAL LIFE OF PUNCH EPSTEIN.)
It is not just that Ethan is such a sadsack -- the whole point being that his pessimism is an island in a sea of optimism. But Letterle, who made such a winning impression in CAMP, brings no charisma to Ethan and thus, no focus. And I don't think it is entirely Letterle's fault, since he seems to be playing the part as written. For instance, when Ethan decides at the last minute to break up a wedding, he stops midpoint to browse a catalogue and place a phone order. Funny? Yeah, sorta. But at what cost to the story? Despite a few discreetly suggestive sex scenes, there is no passion, let alone urgency, to the story or between any of the characters. For a movie filmed in less than two weeks, ETHAN GREEN is surprisingly well made technically, but first-time director George Bamber can't conjure up any eagerness to please. Likewise, in the end Ethan doesn't seem to find Mr. Right so much as Mr. Alright. If neither Ethan nor the film are fabulous, it is because neither have made the effort.
I watched the first 45 minutes of this film and decided to cut my
loses. As a film studies graduate, its extremely rare for me to not
watch a film in its entirety, I don't like the nagging, lingering
question that arises sometimes after only seeing half a film; "I wonder
what happened in the end?" With regards to this film, I honestly don't
care how it ended. A romantic comedy that is neither funny nor
romantic. I couldn't even force half a smile at any of the jokes.
This film breaks the most basic fundamental rule of storytelling; the audience needs to feel empathy, affection and support for the central protagonist. I could not invest in the character Ethan Green at all, I felt no interest in his 2 dimensional life whatsoever.
The plot is farcical, the narrative is all over the place and the acting is wooden and amateur.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
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