Lily Mae Harrington co-stars as Jill. She's in the same grade as Matt and Elmo, same age, but she's oddly Elmo's aunt. She's also a bit overweight. She's jokingly referred to as the fat girl. She meets Matt in biology class over an assignment to dissect a frog. She seems to take a liking to Matt, but it's not clear why. She's funny and smart. She likes to read Of Human Bondage. She's strong, confident, not afraid to stand up for herself or dissect a frog, and she can sing.
Matt is practically the opposite of those things. He initially shows no interest in her. He in fact makes a fat joke having just met her. He eventually apologizes and enjoys spending time with her, hanging out. It's obvious why he would grow feelings for her despite her looks, but the same can't be said of the reverse. Why does she like him?
Whether conscious or not, that's the question that's almost the premise. Writer-director Ian MacAllister McDonald does have a scene where the two are lying in bed after prom night and Matt asks what is it about him. Jill replies because he's handsome. Obviously, this is McDonald making some comment about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. There's a scene earlier where Jill bumps into Patrick, played by Lachlan Buchanan who certainly has sexy, male-model, good looks. He expresses interest in her and she totally dismisses him.
McDonald missteps when he forces Matt to act in a way that feels contrived and intentionally forced for an unneeded, explosive moment. Matt gets aggressive, physically aggressive against Jill and it makes no sense. It's supposed to push sympathy toward Jill or make Matt appear more desperate to prep for later plot developments, but it's unnecessary.
Matt's theory or way of thinking needn't have been so selfish as to rise to the level of physical aggression. Matt physically assaults Jill and she has to fight him off and run away. It undermines any hope for the two of them and certainly makes the ending ring a little hollow. I'm not even sure what should be gleaned from McDonald's ending.
Patrick seems to be a freak of a different kind, the traditionally attractive kind. If he's interested in Jill, it's never made clear why. He stops a hookup because he wants the hot girl to like him for his mind not his body, but, besides being familiar with Of Human Bondage, he's shown no presence of a mind, or any real personality. Jill rightfully calls him boring at one point and she's not wrong, which is fine, but McDonald does nothing to rectify this, as Patrick seems unmotivated to take active steps to change and show he's more than just a hot body.
Spoiler alert! This is to denote some criticisms of the third act and final minutes of this film.
Jill goes with Patrick to a party. She does so probably just to have sex with a hot guy, which at one point she looks at in either sadness or in oddity. Then, it ends with presumably Patrick unable to perform, or achieve an erection. With as much time as he spends ogling her, it's a moment of irony, but again what should be gleaned from it? Did Patrick waste his time, or was he delusional in his interest in Jill? Is Jill a fool for giving him a chance?
Matt gets a prosthetic eye, which looks absolutely real. A girl he meets basically calls him boring, as Jill did to Patrick, and to impress her he takes his prosthetic out and finally has a good time embracing who he is without hiding his deficiency or disability. Yet, at the end, he's rejected for it. What should be gleaned from this? Was this just one bad experience? How is he supposed to feel about it? What was he to learn?
The whole thing is capped with a gay panic, homophobic attack. McDonald gives us the oft-used stereotype of the gay boy going after the straight boy resulting in horrific violence. For some reason, McDonald makes the gay character the worst of all here. You almost don't feel sorry for him when he's nearly beaten to death. It doesn't excuse the attack against him and there doesn't need to be a perfect victim, but it seems to be a karma thing at play here.
Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but has sexual situations and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 37 mins.
Playing at the 2016 Portland Film Festival.
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