Judge Patrick Rogers smells the next big off-Broadway sensation.
"…He's a catch!"
For being a heterosexual male, I've seen my fair share of New Queer Cinema. From Bruce LaBruce's gonzo take on the zombie film, Otto: or, Up With Dead People, to Gregg Araki's beautifully visceral coming-of-age film Mysterious Skin, there's something universally relatable about the themes found within this specific film movement. From the sense of social and cultural intolerance, to making apparent the destructive force of bigotry and ignorance, these motifs transcend a person's sexual orientation. Many of the films from this movement, which sprouted from the early '90s independent film scene, also have a loose and playful nature when it comes to addressing these monumentally serious issues. It's this style of approach that can make a film challenging yet grounded, poignant yet uplifting. You Should Meet My Son! is one of those films and then some. Though it may not be as radical in style or as complex as some of the masterpieces from the auteurs of the movement, it's got such a great sense of humor that you can't really fault it.
Mrs. Davis (Joanne McGee, Cedar Rapids) is the sweetest southern mom a son could ask for. She'll pour you a nice cold glass of lemonade and dish the latest town gossip without much prodding. But she also stopped seeing her amazing hairdresser purely because she found out he's gay. This is why Mrs. Davis's son, Brian (Stewart Carrico, The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell), still tells her that his boyfriend, Dennis (Brett Holland, All My Children), is just his roommate and suffers her trying to set him up with a multitude of attractive girls. But when Dennis decides to "move out" Mrs. Davis finally realizes the truth about her son being gay. She has to learn to get past her intolerance and realize that her son deserves a man to care for him. Thus begins Mrs. Davis' long journey to find her son the perfect match.
It should be said that You Should Meet My Son! is a shockingly well-written and directed film buoyed by even better performances. I say shockingly because to look at the DVD case you wouldn't think it. It looks goofy and fun, a little low budget and a little repetitive. But the film itself almost never betrays its modest origins, and underneath the comical premise is a very poignant message about the rampant bigotry in our country and how to overcome it by just opening your perspective and accepting people for who they are and want to be. These issues about acceptance and understanding are encapsulated by the charming themes of family unity and love in the face of adversity. The film's also damn fun, so there's that too.
Joanne McGee is the film's comedic anchor as Mrs. Davis and she plays the part wonderfully. She's got that sickly sweet smile, that poufy southern belle hairstyle and an accent dripping in caricature. She plays Mrs. Davis as sweet yet misguided and it works. You may not agree with her beliefs but you can understand that it's a generational and a regional thing even if it doesn't make it right. She just can't help it and the love for her son is so vivid and so pure that you can almost forgive her. One small gripe with the film, however, is that it doesn't quite get as much out of Mrs. Davis and her torment after finding out her son is gay as it could. While the entire film is about her journey of self-discovery and understanding, I yearned for a little bit more of an emotional and psychological struggle in the character, yet the screenplay has Mrs. Davis almost immediately jumping into a form of acceptance about her son's homosexuality. This robs the film from having a greater sense of complexity and depth, though this is a comedy so maybe I'm misguided in wanting this. On the same comedic note is Carol Goanes (Morphin(e)) as Rose, Mrs. Davis's best friend and sidekick. Together in their search for a soulmate for Brian, these two actresses form one of the greatest comedic duos in recent cinematic memory. It is through the eyes of these two characters that we are exposed to both the homophobic culture of Anywhere, USA (like an intensive sexual re-engineering seminar) and the underbelly of gay culture and all its intricacies. These two actresses play off each other wonderfully with two equally exuberant performances.
Narratively speaking, the film is incredibly well paced and structured, with one situational gag giving way to an even grander one. At 85 minutes it's a breezy affair but it doesn't leave you wanting. It's a farcical film that is also character driven, with each scene being dominated by a character acting as a stand in or representation for some aspect of gay or anti-gay culture. It's an approach that may turn people off, to see such over-the-top caricatures and broad generalizations, but I think it's fine with the farcical nature of the film. It points out and exposes the innate ludicrousness of bigotry masterfully while also saying something about how gay culture has taken that and turned it back around on its opponents. I understand it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think people are missing the point if they find the film too over-the-top.
I came away from You Should Meet My Son! with a big goofy grin on my face, not remembering the last time I laughed that hard at a new release movie nor the last time I fell in love with one in such an encompassing manner. It's certainly not a movie for everyone considering its subject matter but I think it would be a shame for open minded people to not give an independent film like this a shot.
On the DVD side of things, this release sports a decently sharp 1.78:1 Anamorphic video transfer. Colors are saturated, especially in the skin tones, but on the whole it's a very nice transfer for an independent release. The audio track is a little less stellar but it's not as if you should expect to be blown away by such a release. The dialogue is heartily reproduced, which is about as much as you could ask for. The special features include two separate commentaries, one for the cast and one for the crew, along with a deleted scene called "Gratuitous GoGo Boy Footage." To rounding out the special features are three short films by director Keith Hartman, a trailer for the film, cast and crew bios, and a segment where Hartman also plugs a few books he's written in case the film's got you hooked on his work. Finally there's a segment called "Painting George Bush," a short featurette of an artist describing his inspiration for a certain painting that is seen in the film; it's one of the best sight gags in You Should Meet My Son!…best not to spoil it.
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