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I did like this movie. It had the benefit of never having been done
before or since for that matter.
In the primary story, a college professor, reaches his 40th birthday and is an unhappy single gay man. He goes home to help his family celebrate his parent's 45th wedding anniversary. During his visit he runs into old friends and old "not so" friends. Further reminded of his lonely life during this family gathering he gets into an accident and is somehow catapulted back into his teenage years.
However all is not as it was. Now he is a world where men like men and girls like girls. His father is married to his otherworld neighbor husband and his mother is married to the otherworld wife. The star of the basketball team a guy he has always had a crush on meets and falls for him while his best friend, a girl shows up. For a brief shining moment he is "normal." However all things are not equal. In this world he discovers that he is not gay. He falls for his friend and they enter a tentative relationship that jeopardizes the love he had developed with his teen heartthrob.
The movie was good but not as good as it could have been. From the technical side the movie's editing was not as good as it could have been and some of the actors had a habit of overplaying their roles. Still for what it was and is this movie is a ground breaker. It was a major shocker for me a gay man to see a high-school full of boys kissing each other and girls doing the same with their girl friends. For a moment I saw a world where I would have been "Almost Normal."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review contains extreme "spoilers". Some reviewers of this film
have misinterpreted the writer's vision. Ostensibly a standard gay
comedy, Almost Normal would be rather forgettable, if it wasn't also a
social satire, designed to illustrate what it's like to be gay in a
straight world. As satire, it succeeds very well, and in some ways as
brilliantly as one could hope to expect. In spots, the plot is too
confusing to produce the intended impact, but I give it an A for
Brad is nice-looking, single, gay, on the cusp of his 40th birthday, and somewhat discontent. He ogles sports jocks when they're not looking, goes on dates with guys who are miles below his desirability level, and frequently argues with his best friend Julie, who is also his sister-in-law. At a party for his parents' 45th wedding anniversary, things have just about hit the boiling point. A reunion with his best high school buddy reminds him that his friend stopped talking to him when he came out. His mother still dreams that he'll find some nice girl, and as he remarks to Julie, sometimes he just wishes that he was "normal". Not that he dislikes being gay, but he is weary of being different from the heterosexuals that surrounded him. As a gay man, I found it easy to identify with this sentiment.
Events at the party annoy him so much that he gets drunk, even though he recently gave up alcohol. Seeking some fun, he slips out of the party and drives to a local gay cruising area, where he crashes his car into a tree. As we suspect (and our suspicions are confirmed much later in the film) much of the remainder of the film is a dream sequence that plays in his mind while he lies unconscious in a hospital. And what a dream! Brad dreams that when he wakes the next morning, something unexplainable has happened. He has traveled back in time to the 1970's, and is now an 18 year old high school student. But that's not all. He has gotten his wish to be "normal" because everyone in the world is gay! Except, of course, those outcasts who are emotionally and physically attracted to members of the opposite sex. Known pejoratively as "breeders" and "hole-punchers", heterosexuals in Brad's dream world are routinely ostracized, scorned and even "straight bashed". They are preached against, misunderstood, and subjected to extreme ignorance and isolation. Pardon my gloating, but as a gay man, I found this a most delicious and righteous turn-about on reality.
It was also highly satisfying to see a world where gay people are totally free, and stand proudly with their chosen partners before the entire world. In Brad's dream, there is no such thing as homophobia, and for a wonderful moment I allowed myself to be caught up in this glorious if absurd fantasy. Conversely, I can only imagine what it must be like for a straight person to absorb the basic premise of Brad's dream world heterosexuals may find it strange, disjointing and probably fear-inducing. Homosexual propaganda? Yes! And highly effective.
A myriad of plot problems are resolved with witty or sometimes silly explanations. In his dream, Brad's parents have same-sex partners, but his father and mother begat him through a custom known as "birth partners" where best friends of opposite sexes have children solely to reproduce, although romance and sexual desire between the sexes is taboo and "disgusting".
Here's where Brad's dream gets dicey and somewhat confusing. Enter his sister-in-law, Julie. Although Brad has found his soul-mate, a basketball jock he had a crush on in High School in his "real" life, Brad slowly begins to realize that he is sexually attracted to Julie, and she to him. For a while, I was a bit uncomfortable with this plot twist, until I realized that the writer was cleverly engineering a take on the real-life terror, isolation, rejection and ultimate acceptance that virtually all gay people experience when they discover the truth of their own sexuality. Brad and Julie go to an underground "straight" bar, witness a violent "straight bashing" and ultimately attend their high school dance, where they demand acceptance. Many reviewers were confused by the dance scene. When Brad and Julie are denied permission to dance together ("We have to tolerate your kind, but we don't have to put up with your disgusting behavior") many of the on-looking gay couples (including some of the faculty) begin to dance with opposite sex partners, in a show of solidarity and tolerance. Some reviewers of this film thought that this signaled a reversal of Brad's fantasy dream, and that "everybody starts turning straight". Some even saw it as an argument that sexual orientation is a choice, but that's not what I got out of it I saw it as a simple show of support for a persecuted minority.
The "gay reversal argument" has been used before, but not quite so effectively. In "Torch Song Trilogy", Harvey Fierstein begins an impassioned speech to his mother by saying, "Ma, imagine what it would be like if everyone around you was gay; every book, every magazine " and Anne Bancroft, replies, "You're talking crazy!" Almost Normal expands this argument to its conclusion. Of course, no heterosexual can ever truly understand what it's like to be gay in a straight world. But in the end, I found much of this movie powerfully persuasive, and I wanted to round up all my straight friends and family and make them watch it. The final scenes reverted to standard gay comedy, but there was a nice romantic twist at the end I didn't see coming. That part I'll leave for you to discover, for I do recommend that you see it and decide for yourself. I left with a smile on my face and my head full of thought, and that's never a bad thing.
As an avid viewer to any and all gay themed movies...this one made me think the most. don't get me wrong it was entertaining, however, I almost wonder if this is some how trying to make society think that being gay IS a choice. On that I don't agree. On the other hand, when you take the dominant sexual preference of society and turn the tables on them and let them see what the outcome is, I wonder if the message will get across. You will have to form your own opinion. I truly enjoyed the casting, and the lead actor is quite versatile in his ability to portray then and now. 8 out of 10 in my book. Definitely worth seeing.
40-year-old gay teacher has a car accident and dreams he's back in high school again--only this time, gay is 'normal' and he's attracted to a comely female student. Silly, low-budget, under-populated comedy-drama is more ambitious than its thin production or straight-seeming cast can handle. The script is stuck in a revolving closet--the teacher has to come out all over again--and it's never clear to whom the picture is meant to appeal, straight or gay audiences. The filmmakers' idea of a novel twist is to have the homosexuals be the unyielding bashers, but is the movie preaching tolerance and acceptance or is it a treatise for heterosexuals in need of reassurance? (after all, their side wins). A less 'colorful' take on this material might have made for a funnier and perhaps thought-provoking comedy, but "Almost Normal" doesn't even scratch the surface of those possibilities. * from ****
I liked this film because it brought a unique view to prejudice and misunderstanding. Here being gay is normal and straight (breeders) is not. The length and breadth of this perspective makes it quite persuasive. You get a chance to see life from the other side. Brad is 40, gay and not partnered. On his way home to attend his dysfunctional parents' 45th Anniversary an accident lets him go back in time to high school where he sees himself as straight and "alone" in a school where all the "normal" boys like boys and the girls like girls. The first time in school he fancied the star of the basketball team and knew he couldn't get him. Now he's there and the star is hoping to make it with him. Brad couldn't fix a car or do lots of other "straight" appearing things. Now he can and it makes him different. He doesn't like it. He comes out as straight in high school during the second visit and is attacked for it. The boy he wanted as a boyfriend turns out to be his friend and the girl he wanted as a friend turns out to be his girlfriend. Handled with humor and sincerity by a cast that handled the job well.
Premise? Brad, a 40 year old college professor, gets propelled back in time to his high school years (paging Peggy Sue). The time machine of choice is an automobile (paging Doc Brown). The twist here is that his past is now a world where same sex relations are the norm and being a 'breeder' is considered 'queer'. Unfortunately, ALMOST NORMAL suffers a bit from adhering to it's 'concept' - showing us a world every gay person has dreamt of, where being gay is the acceptable norm. Some of the character and plot energy is diverted to this noble experiment and thankfully, it eventually pays off. Although an indy in spirit, ALMOST NORMAL looks and sounds pretty slick and manages to be quite winning, despite some apparent flaws. The scenes where Brad and his boyfriend go on an 'ice cream' date and where the hunky boyf eventually proposes marriage are genuinely moving and refreshingly real. The convention of having Brad remain 'different' even in his new world is the film's toughest trick and I'm glad to say it works. The performances are capable and except for a few of the smaller roles, the acting is uniformly pretty good. The score and photography are above the norm for this type of endeavor, generally on a par with a Hollywood effort. The direction is a bit uneven, with a few scenes a bit too farcical and others veering toward the too sentimental. But for the most part ALMOST NORMAL is almost as clever and unique a film as Doc Brown could possibly confabulate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unhappy middle-aged gay man gets transported back to his high school
days, and everyone's gay! Including the boy of his dreams. A nifty
concept, but it gets derailed halfway through when our hero suddenly
falls for a girl, which in itself isn't a problem--but he's been gay
the whole time, and suddenly has feelings for a girl, and doesn't even
pause to question this sudden 180- degree turn in his sexuality, he
just pursues her. The film then wanders off into 80s teen-film land,
with moral lessons for all about acceptance.
If the film had remained an exploration of this one fellow's problems with his own life, the premise would have worked really well. Too bad it didn't do that.
Other strangeness: the auto repair guy with the uncanny ability to find our hero at crucial moments in unlikely places, the two brothers mentioned at the start who never appear except for one at the very end, as he's about to return to his real life, the del sol that is miraculously repaired twice using 1970s junkyard parts. Amazing!
Marc Moody has written and directed a film that is so earnest and
reaches so high for making a significant statement that it is difficult
not to admire the result. ALMOST NORMAL is so obviously a gay version
of 'Back to the Future' by its own admission that it becomes a bit
tedious and silly, and when accompanied by low budget and tenuous
production values it is a little squeaky in achieving its self-imposed
high standards, it comes very close to being a forgettable effort. So
why is it so popular? It has spirit! Brad (J. Andrew Keitch in a fine
film debut) is a 40-year-old closeted gay college professor in Nebraska
who lives in fear of derision and is frustrated he is unable to live
his life in a happy relationship. His good friend Julie (Joan Lauckner)
is supportive and encourages Brad to return home for his parent's
wedding anniversary. Brad does so reluctantly, finds the usual
homophobic atmosphere and in a moment of weakness, drinks too much and
has an auto accident. Miraculously, when he awakens, he has the
appearance of a handsome high school kid and when he wanders into the
world he discovers that there has been a major reversal: now it is
normal to be gay and grossly distasteful to be a straight breeder. Even
his parents are gay with breeder hosts for procreation purposes. Brad
sees reverse discrimination now, is sought after by the high school
jock Roland (Tim Hammer), enjoys the freedom of being openly gay, but
meets the now new Julie and is strangely attracted to her, having to
hide his new 'straight alliance' in a new closet. And the resolution of
this new dilemma is the message of the film.
Everything about the idea of the film makes the viewer want to love it, and it is a sweet little diversion of a film with some thinking material about prejudices. It is rough and hampered by many technical and casting and scripted errors, but it does give newcomer Marc Moody a strong grounding for making further films about gay life that seem to appear like seeds of ideas throughout this film. It needs polish but it is a good time and offers a wide audience a better perspective on what it feels like to live a life as an outsider. Grady Harp
Right! I felt a bit angry half way through the movie. I admitted I forwarded and rewind a few scenes I thought there were funny. But the idea of a gay person going to a future where you can be gay and it is acceptable as "normal" and the same character decided that he is "straight" did not make any sense to me. However I think this movie is about being an "Outsider" rather than an "Insider" (as the main character says at the end "sometimes what I want it is not what I need"). I agreed with previous comments, you don't really know what audience this movie target, but I have to say it is an interesting concept the director brings to the screen, isn't perfect but a good effort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The indie film, written, directed and produced by a couple of college
film professors, is kind of a cross between "Back To The Future" and
"It's A Wonderful Life" with a queer twist that can be appreciated by
gay as well as non-gay audiences. The cast includes mostly first-time
actors and lots of extras from the film school and a local high school,
but the film comes off surprisingly polished despite the low budget.
A 40 year old college professor laments entering middle age as a single gay man, and is further depressed by a blind-date-from-hell and an incident where he thinks one of his young students is coming on to him, only to find out he wants to fix him up with his gay father. Unloading his misery on his "fag hag" best friend, he wishes he could start over and just be "normal", and seems to get his wish when a car crash transports him back to his high school days, but into a parallel universe where being gay is the norm, and straights are considered perverts who must seek out each other in incognito "straight bars" downtown. He starts dating the high school jock of his dreams, but a complication develops when he finds he is also attracted sexually to his former fag hag, now a feisty transfer student, making him again not as "normal" as he thought he'd be in that world.
The film has the expected role-reversal puns, including quasi-religious justifications for considering heterosexuals sinners ("If God had intended for men and women to be together, He would have made women to like football!"), but isn't really a comedy or a drama, but an intellectual satire on just how "normal" anyone's sexual orientation is to someone else. In a sense, it becomes a moral lesson about acceptance of anyone who is different than the seeming "norm", whether that be based on sexual orientation, race, religion, attitudes or physical limitations. Despite the gay theme, it would likely earn a PG-13 rating, and is appropriate for mature viewers of that age or higher, and would be a perfect segue for a classroom discussion of diversity.
The one drawback of the film is the complexity which somewhat enables it to chart new grounds for gay cinema, and it must be judged in its entirety rather than take any scene out of context, as less patient viewers would be inclined to do. There seem to be a lot of extraneous details at times, and these are eventually resolved by the film's end, though an average viewer may not catch it all. Personally, I thought it was an ambitious, unique gem of a film, and recommend it highly.
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