Straightman (1999) Poster


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Improv is not the same as real conversation, and no substitute for a script!
eslgr82 April 2006
Straightman is not without its merits, first and foremost the fact that it shows a kind of gay man not usually seen on the screen, a blue collar, scruffy, fashion-clueless everyman. It also depicts a friendship between a straight man and a gay man which doesn't unravel when the gay friend comes out, but is instead greeted with a matter-of-factness that hopefully happens more often in real life than movies would have you believe. Both Bens are well cast and the real life bond between them is obvious.

What I find hard to believe is that this film won the Best Screenplay award at Outfest, my "local" gay/lesbian film festival. Why? Because there is no screenplay, just I would guess a brief description of what each scene is to be about and the words: Improvise.

That improvisation is the same as real conversation is a huge fallacy. Improv sounds like improv, and is no substitute for well written dialog performed by talented actors who make the audience believe that their words are spontaneous.

Had the writers/director/stars used improvisation as a starting off point, and then written carefully thought out dialog, this film would have avoided the many boring and repetitive moments that others on this site have criticized.

Memo to filmmakers: Get a script, have your actors learn their lines, rehearse, and say the words. You'll end up with a much realer film than this one.
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Maximum Self-Indulgence
Citymars5 December 2005
Take two ordinary men who have no previous film credits for acting, directing, or writing, put them in charge of all three tasks, and the result is likely to be as shapeless and self-indulgent as "Straightman." This low-budget movie is a real disappointment -- so much so that I begin to suspect the glowing reviews were written by friends of the cast. It's a shame, too, because there is potential here for a good indie movie. It begins with a good premise, the working-class Chicago backdrop is interesting, and there is a sense that the film might be semi-autobiographical.

This film's main problem is that the director, who also co-stars, apparently has no distance from the material. An objective eye would have edited the tiresome and repetitious improvisation. As it is, the two men talk on and on and on. Scenes are too long, and footage that should have been cut is treated as sacrosanct. The drama goes from feeling fresh to feeling forced as each of the lead actors has to pile on dramatic moments. While the actors do not stink, they are not noticeably talented, either; so they cannot sustain the drama, and ultimately their time on screen feels undeserved.

Not recommended.
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An Interesting Movie, But Not A Good One
rjnilmandir28 October 2013
Straightman is the story of Jack and David and what happens to their friendship once they become roommates.

This is a tough movie to watch. Not because of the subject matter, but because the acting, directing, and the writing are not up to the quality needed for a movie like this. While having some really great moments, it seemed that the director was more interested in keeping the viewer off balance with unsteady camera work.

The script, if there was one, seemed to broad and too focused by strokes. Where things should have been played with a delicate hand, we were smashed over the head with info. Where we should have been given the internal dialog of a character, we are just given the outcome.

The acting seemed both earnest and forced. The moments that shone are the ones where the two main characters weren't talking to each other. When they did, it felt forced and awkward.

This is a movie I would have eagerly watched when it first came out. So starved for representation in movies, I would have been glad for it. Now, it just doesn't hold up to newer movies that seem to have done the same story, but better.
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Gets better as it goes along
guil126 December 2002
At first I thought this film had doubts to it, by the almost documentary presentation of its camera work. But after awhile I got hooked into the lives of the two leading men. This small gem of a film was written and starred Ben Berkowitz and Ben Redgrave and was directed by Ben Berkowitz. Not a bad attempt on doing it all. I especially liked both male leads in this. Redgrave as the gay coming out of the closet guy and Berkowitz as his "straight man" friend.

We watch how their relationship changes along the way when Redgrave confesses to his friend his secret gay lifestyle. I liked the way Berkowitz reacted to what he heard. It seemed natural and quite real. If only others could take the same example in the "straight world" and have as much understanding and acceptance.

You have compassion for the characters and like where they are coming from. This praise goes to the writing and the performances. And Redgrave is gorgeous! Hard to believe that anyone wouldn't want him for a lover. As the two friends go their own ways, you feel a sense of sadness that they couldn't find a way to live their lives together.

Congratulations on a sleeper of a film with excellent performances and direction.
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Comparable to Cassavetes and Leigh?? NOT
claudelalande6 August 2003
I have read comments and reviews that compare this to movies by John Cassavetes and Mike Leigh. It is, and by far, in a totally different league. I believe it takes incredible talent, even genius, to pull off near reality when you let your actors improvise. Cassavetes and Leigh have (had) such talent and I find many of their movies admirable.

Unfortunately, it is my opinion that neither the director, the writers nor the actors who gave birth to Straightman had what it takes to pull it off. The dialogs were painfully empty, incoherent and led nowhere. The characters were not developed, the ending a cop-out. I found the whole thing rather pretentious, posing as "rough trade chic".

Are the reviewers indulgent because of the gay theme? I'm gay and have seen many gay movies. In Straightman, the theme does not redeem the film. Maybe, as Liz Braun (reviewer, Toronto Sun) said: "Straightman is the sort of film people tend to either love or hate." Well, I hated it, except for a few moments, and gave it a 2/10.
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lucyfan-31 February 2004
I don't usually skip ahead in movies, but had to do it with this one. Was thanking my dvd remote for that option! Not entirely bad, just overall boring. Ben Redgrave is white trash "eye candy". The homo sex scenes are very erotic. The straight sex scenes were like watching a Ron Jeremy movie. Yuck! A nice attempt for film production. Will be looking for more movies by this novice team. If they can pull it together, lot's of potential.
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Admirable in its ambitions if uneven in execution
runamokprods24 May 2013
This hyper low-budget, rough edged study of a friendship between two men, one straight, one gay is unusual for the honesty with which it shows the layers that men place over their feelings, between each others and even within themselves. The need for love, the use of sex as a distancing device instead of a way of being closer, the confusion of vulnerability and weakness, the use of humor to mask deeper feelings, these traits are rarely examined with much honesty. The same could be said for how male friendship in general functions (and doesn't) as well.

Made in the rough edged, improvised tradition of Casavettes and Mike Leigh, this deserves points for trying. The difference is, both Casavettes and Leigh had access to some of the best actors of their respective days, and while the actors here are willing,they're simply not at that level of depth or talent, meaning that while this has some wonderful moments, there are also some repetitive, or even awkwardly 'acted' ones as well.

But I'd rather see a film that aims high and doesn't always make it, than one that tries for nothing and succeeds.
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Quite the surprise - discovered thanks to online sales
dishmanl11 October 2003
While browsing the Gay/Lesbian section of an online video site (TLA), I saw a listing for Straightman and gambled with a purchase. This video is a treats amongst the usual menu of Blockbusters. The cowriters costar as best friends, presented with (pardon the much-repeated cliche) warts and all. The script (or improvisation) combines with an acting style not found in films today: I could believe the people on the screen actually exist. There were awkward pauses, looks, and dialog interruptions: all these things contribute to an air of reality. Hollywood studio productions feature spritzed actors rather than perspiring actors; never is a strand of hair out of place; no one reaches for the "right" words. Such is not the case here. We need more films by Ben and Ben. I hope they do another very soon.
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improv or.....
ksf-215 September 2019
Great storyline, but the execution was a bit strange -- almost feels like they are improvising as they go along, lots of pausing and repeating while we think of what we're going to say next. Dude is best friends with a straight couple, and when they bust up, the two guys move in together, which (of course) will have its own challenges. the BENS... Ben Berkowitz and Ben Redgrave star in Straightman. and they wrote the script together, as well. it's pretty good, but the actual execution needs some tightening up. (Lynn Redgrave DID have a son ben, but its not clear if this is the same guy...) the men are everyday guys, no fawncy models here, but the women are all pretty foxy. it's pretty good, if you overlook some of the silly, rambling discussions, and part of THAT can be chalked up to the drinking going on a lot of the time. This one is directed by Berkowitz, and the two Bens will collaborate again on Polish Bar some years later. showing on Filmrise channel.
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Best friends for life!!!
ohlabtechguy25 December 2018
Here's a low budget movie that actually says something positive. We have two male leads, young and full of testosterone, one gay and one straight, who discover and reveal to one another how deep their "friendship" bond is. The dialogue, shots and settings seem very realistic as if the camera is merely a fly on the wall. The screenwriter had a great concept, but it could have been far better if the interior residential settings were not so low end....I actually thought the two leads could have been squatting in some abandoned building. Also, the use of the "f" word was way overdone. Does anyone other than the lower classes use that word that often? The gay lead was attractive, but the camera never shone on his face to highlight his male beauty. That needed corrected. Look at the movie "Weekend", filmed in a similar way. Yet, the director made sure there were a number of well lit, close ups of Tom Cullen's beautiful face. Acting was pretty good. I never felt like they were just reading lines with zero emotion. Would love to see this concept taken to a higher level.
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Not Such A Bad Film
Siebert_Tenseven2 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this for the second time yesterday. The first time I thought it was a little drawn out, but this time it stuck. I especially liked the scene where Jack is laying in the dry bathtub with all his clothes on drinking Jack Daniels smoking Lucky Strikes and coming out to his Mom on the phone. That scene makes it worth viewing this film. Nobody is cute in this film, everyone has some problem they are trying to work out. There is no fuzzy warm feeling ever. If you need that watch Meg Ryan and/or Tom Hanks, this film is not for you. This film is not deep or exciting. It reminds me a little bit of the films Andy Warhol used to do.
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A refreshing, honest and powerful look at working class gay life! Reminiscent of Cassavetes and Leigh
vagrantfilms25 April 2001
Straightman has an authenticity and originality that will resonate with anyone who has ever had to deal with the fear and emotions involving coming out. The Sexy and talented Ben Redgrave comes across as a genuine and fully fleshed person. This is a marvelous gay film!!!!
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Kick Ass Movie!!!!!!!!!!
robertdeniro6917 March 2004
this Movie has a lot of guts drama and truth

I loved the characters and felt like I saw my family and friends among them. A truly independent film, a gem among cookie cutter fakes.

Ben Berkowitz is a new filmmaking talent and is one to watch in the future. Also you never see Chicago the real Chicago on film. I visit the windy city on business often and this is true blue Chicago all the way.

This is the real thing!!!! Rent it on netflix or at you local video store
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the truth!!!
bennyhuggs-110 October 2005
This movie is honest and funny. Maybe too real for some but it was a great experience for all. The DVD features one of the funniest filmmaker commentaries I have ever heard. I think anyone who has lived in Chicago will enjoy seeing the city portrayed in such an unglamorous stark picture of urban life. This was one of the best film festival hits of that year .

I really like this film, and I think you will too.

Don't miss it.


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Pleasantly surprised
lizbids29 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
OK, so I decided to give this low-budget queer film an hour and forty minutes of my time. I'm always apprehensive about low-budget films, considering all the Clerks and Reservoir Dog knock-offs during the '90s...shudder! I'm happy to say Straightman is its own film, and a good film at that.

Berkowitz is quite charming as David, playing him even-keeled until his back was against the wall. I thought his take on David was entirely appropriate--here's a guy who doesn't want to be seen as the good guy b/c that entails some personal responsibility in his behavior that maybe he's not equipped to handle at this point in his life. I hope I'm not off the mark there, but that was my take on him. And when I watched this scenes with Jack lamenting that his homosexuality was getting in the way of David's listening skills, I had to laugh. Jack was acting like a teenager, not realizing that David was merely treating him as a fellow guy who's getting hung up on a piece of ass...which leads me to Jack.

What I loved about Jack is that he had regressed emotionally, like a teenager, after he came out. This is something many of us go's like you come out in your 20s and have to experience everything your straight friends have been experiencing for ten sometimes you feel a bit stunted. At least, most of my friends and I did. I really loved Redgrave's performance--from coming out to his mom via phone to freaking out over his lover being seen with a new man. From a personal standpoint, you do tend to be a bit possessive of your first, b/c at the time you're sold on the idea of "one person, the one, for life..." I suffered for a few years believing that myth, and essentially, it has been a heterosexual myth that a lot of gays have adopted in an attempt to feel "normal."

I'm not surprised to see that the script won a prize at Outfest--not an easy achievement. I recommend the film, as it's one of the few gay movies that seems real to me, not forced, campy or silly in any way. Yes it's a bit rough, tight shooting spaces, minor sound issues here and there--hey, it's an Indie! Berkowitz should be proud of this film, and if you like queer stories that don't stereotype or have a soundtrack by La Bouche, rent this film and SUPPORT YOUR INDIE ARTISTS!
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