DVD Review - Naked As We Came

This is Richard LeMay's third feature film as director. Because I loved his two previous movies, I was eager to see his latest work. His two previous films are 200 American and Whirlwind. Each involve people doing bad things or making mistakes, yet as a viewer I still liked those characters. Naked As We Came had me not liking any of the characters and even actively hating them. Now, I don't believe that protagonists in films have to be likeable. The protagonists can in fact be villainous.

Some of the greatest films have been about bad guys. Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho was about a serial killer. There was also Bonnie and Clyde (1967). Al Pacino was a bank robber in Dog Day Afternoon and Robert De Niro was a vigilante in Taxi Driver. Steven Spielberg made Munich, which is about Israeli assassins. All these movies feature protagonists doing bad things, but there's always something else about them that attracts attention and empathy.

Naked As We Came doesn't really have that something. It tries because it's about a brother and sister who leave their business in Manhattan to visit their sick mother who is dying from cancer. The cancer is supposed to be the something that engenders sympathy, even while the brother and sister are being insufferable, but either LeMay's screenplay, his direction or the performances simply aren't enough to overcome the unlikeability of the situations and characters.

Ryan Vigilant and Karmine Alers star as the brother and sister, Elliot and Laura respectively. Lue McWilliams co-stars as their mother Lilly, a wheelchair bound, cancer patient on her last days. Benjamin Weaver also co-stars as Ted, a so-called groundskeeper and cook who lives at Lilly's house and takes care of her in the absence of any other family, including her adult children who haven't visited in a year and a half.

Elliot and Laura begin their unlikeability almost from the beginning with bickering during the car ride. Laura amplifies hers by immediately not liking and in fact actively hating Ted. It's okay if she's suspicious of him, but her attitude toward him from the jump is so off-putting.

What's also off-putting is the sexual relationship that develops between Elliot and Ted. It's not surprising because LeMay's previous films do center around gay male romances, but Elliot spends half the movie apprehensive of the relationship and the last act reveals that he was right to do so. By the end, I wasn't sure what the point was.

McWilliams gives a good performance, but her character falls to a lot of clich├ęs of the old, cancer-stricken woman. It's not as insufferable as Meryl Streep in August: Osage County, but Streep is intentionally insufferable. That's the point of that movie. I don't think LeMay's point is to be insufferable, particularly with Lilly, but it ends up being so. For example, Lilly tells her daughter Laura something that is such a slap in the face. Lilly shouldn't have to apologize, but it doesn't help to endear her character.

Alers has the most interesting role and her character has the biggest arc. But, her arc is mired by other stuff that bogs it down.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 26 mins.

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