Closet Monster (2015)

A coming-of-age movie on Netflix about a gay teen coming into his own while also battling his hostile family environment and it’s ACTUALLY GOOD? WHAT?

I’ve seen a lot of queer movies on Netflix. Most of them aren’t that great (see Alex Strangelove). But Closet Monster is what all of these queer movies wish they could be. A coming-of-age movie about a gay teen that seamlessly weaves between tragedy and comedy while giving us some pretty cool shots thanks to director Stephen Dunn and DP Bobby Shore, this movie is definitely worth your time.

This movie heavily relies on the performance of Connor Jessup as Oscar Madly, a queer teen trying his hardest to get into college while also dealing with the turbulent relationship of his parents and, of course, his sexuality. Oscar is someone who desperately wants to fly away from his small world and get into a career of make-up and special effects (which are pretty good by the way), but the world keeps clipping his wings. After his mom left him when he was little, Oscar has had to deal with his borderline-abusive dad while also fighting to build his portfolio for arts school. This story is no big teenager epic, but with every obstacle that Oscar faces, you’re with him till the end. Jessup’s performance gives us a sympathetic character for us to cheer on.

This movie does have its quirks though. As well as trying to be a successful make-up artist, due to Oscar’s lack of friends, he relies on talking to his gerbil, Buffy, who talks to him as well, voiced by the wonderful Isabella Rossellini. He also spends most of his time in an elaborate tree house with different pulleys and levers, because, you know, fun quirky teenager movie. There are a few points in this movie where the quirkiness gets in the way of the actual story, but again, the movie is able to weave comedy and tragedy together and not let one of the two get in the way of the other.

Closet Monster isn’t like most gay teen flicks. It’s not super dark and boring like Beach Rats, or very colorful and tasteless like Alex Strangelove. Again, this movie is funny, but knows when to stop and get serious for the sake of the story. If you’re looking for a good gay teen flick, this is the film for you. If you’re just looking for a good film, this movie is also for you.

8/10

Alex Strangelove (2018)

Just like the uncanny valley, there is a threshold a movie hits where it goes from bad to so good it’s bad. Alex Strangelove does not pass that threshold. Instead, Alex Strangelove feels like it’s trying it’s hardest to be the worst it can be, and any sort of social commentary or LGBTQ+ issues it tries to bring up is drowned in gummy bear throw up.

Alex Strangelove is about a kid in high school coming to terms with his sexuality. He’s dating his dream girl, and they’re like the school’s power couple. The only problem is Alex has trouble expressing himself sexually with his girlfriend. Things take a turn when Alex meets Elliot, a open gay man, at a party. And then things start to add up for Alex as he becomes sexually interested in Elliot.

I think the worst part of this movie is the writing. This is most apparent in the dialogue between Alex and his best friend Dell. I didn’t think a LGBT movie could be so blindly offensive, but Strangelove checks all the boxes. The movie even goes out of its way to be transphobic. The dialogue is crass, and you can tell the screenwriter is going for an “American Pie” vibe, but for a movie that treads on difficult waters by exploring the LGBT community, this vulgarity makes the movie feel like it’s undermining the same thing it’s trying to enlighten us about.

What else can I say? The romance between Alex and Elliot feels forced. The main character’s conflict feels unjustified. And the film offers nothing special in terms of cinematography or even it’s score and soundtrack. I have seen Breaking Glass Pictures films that are better than this.

Rating: 1/10