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Tom Herzner, 30, is the hair stylist for men in Berlin. He's attractive, glamorous, runs a posh salon and is an openly gay celebrity who is seen as a role model for the gay community. But when he plans his first hair-product line, the cosmetic company rep gets jittery: he feels that just targeting men is too restrictive. What about women? To get an idea of what women want, Tom is forced to work incognito at a hair salon-cum-barber-shop somewhere in an edgy Berlin neighborhood run by the sassy, gut-honest Heidi.
Gay to straight conversion? Straight for you? Really?
The premise alone could (very well) be perceived as problematic if one looks too closely. Namely, if one wanted, one could take the message from the film that homosexuality isn't part of who a person is, that people actually "can change".
Or, more precisely, it could be assumed that nobody has to actually be homosexual. Because one has to merely find the (one) right person of the opposite sex somewhere out there. Et voilá, cured.
Yes, open minded people who don't give a bloody fu** about a person's sexuality, their religious background or whatever won't actually be, let's call it affected, by the aforementioned "message", but people with certain prejudices, might they be internal, external, big or small, might do so. And that is what I find problematic here.
Sure, the film aims to be a lighthearted, silly, romantic comedy that mustn't be taken too seriously. And it does achieve that. Partly. Maybe even mostly, depending on who you ask..
It's a love story. And in the end, it doesn't matter who you love, who you're with. Be that man or woman, the important thing is to be happy and not to care about other people's opinion. Love conquers all. And isn't that a nice sentiment? I certainly prefer my fiction to be of the happily ever after variety.
So one should just lean back, chill and enjoy the film for what it is, for what it's supposed to be.
And if you can watch it this way and enjoy yourself, great! I really mean that.
I, however, can't do so, not fully at least... Because fact is that homosexuality still is perceived as wrong or unnatural on some level in many countries. Politically, legally and socially there's still prejudice and discrimination to some degree (in most western countries) and to an extreme degree in others. Even in Germany, with anti-discrimination laws in place and everything, homosexuals can still not marry! Sure they can enter into a registered partnership, but that is still miles away from a "real" marriage, legally speaking. (And isn't that discrimination in itself?)
Considering all this, I still think that making a film like this (however lighthearted and silly it is meant to be, even done by a supposedly very gay friendly, gay supportive film team in general) is problematic. Maybe even more so, because the director of the film, Marco Kreuzpaintner, is gay himself.. I really can't understand what he was thinking, making this film. Because fact is heterosexuality and homosexuality are not on the same level (legally, socially etc.), are not considered to be equally okay or normal. Because fact is there are still desperate people trying to convert, to pray the gay away, or are bullied, or forced into such "measures". If that wasn't the case, if there was total equality and no discrimination whatsoever, then sure go ahead. Make that film.
And why the hell not make the lead bisexual? Or, let him discover that he wasn't 100% gay, but bi? This film however very carefully avoids bisexuality (like so very many other films in this and most genres) altogether. Because the protagonist, Tom Herzner, himself says very clearly and colourfully that he is, in fact, very gay. He identifies as gay. Not as bi. Not even a little bit prior to this sudden heterosexual relationship. Why? Maybe because bisexuality and bisexuals are sometimes (or more often than I'd like) perceived as neither here nor there, or as greedy. There seems to be the misconception among some people (heterosexuals and homosexuals alike) that bisexuality equals playing the field, not being able to commit to anyone for good, because there'll always be the question "Is he/she faithful? Is one gender enough?"... Maybe it was explicitly excluded to avoid that very question, to avoid doubts whether this actually is (or can be) a HEA.. Yes, that whole box of issues is neatly sidestepped here -- remember: Tom is not bisexual, after all.
SO, to clarify, I don't negate that this plot could happen in real life. People are not always simply gay or straight. Sexuality can be fluid. The Kinsey-Skala is a thing. Bisexuality is a thing. What I am trying to say is that this film is problematic in a society in which homosexuality is still seen as something "lesser". In which teenagers commit suicide because they're gay, because they can't change however hard they try, because they simply want to be "normal" and feel that they aren't. And such a teenager seeing this film? I really can't (don't want to) imagine the damage this could do!
Another problem I had with the film was that every character is totally clichéd. Over the top so. It's boring to say the least. And has been done like a 100 times before. And sometimes it's even offensive (against women, against homosexuals (& bisexuals), against lower-income people etc.). In my opinion, the film lacks charm and wit, the kind that would have made all the aforementioned clichés and issues less problematic, even funny.
ETA: Here a very good ("official") review of "Coming In" that I stumbled across after writing this review and wholeheartedly agree with also. It points out some other very good problems I had with this film as well. If you're interested, just google "Andreas Scholz Coming In Siegessäule", it's the first link. (That review is even in German.^^)
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