Movie Review - The D Train

Two ideas are battling in this film. The first idea is the one underlying the idiom "the grass is always greener on the other side." It's an expansion of envy along side celebrity worship. It's this pathology of not feeling good about the circumstances of one's life and seeing someone in different circumstances and thinking those circumstances are better, perhaps because they've achieved some success in Hollywood, when the reality is opposite. Often, it's seeing what you want to see in another person rather than what's actually there. Worshiping a celebrity is one thing, but when said celebrity uses it to get or receive worship, especially when it's unearned is very problematic, and an aspect not fully addressed here.

The other idea battling it out in this film is one that's far more complex. It involves sexuality. In fact, it involves the sexuality of one man who is straight and married with two kids, a teenage son and baby daughter, who then, however, ends up having sex with another man. Not since Brokeback Mountain has a movie with this wide a release, meaning at least 1000 screens, put actual gay sex between men directly in our faces with an attempt to deal with the aftermath and implications, which this movie does.

The question then becomes what is the point. In Brokeback Mountain, the point was to explore homophobia and the repression of sexuality with how that might be circumnavigated or not. In this film, written and directed by Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul, the point here seems a bit odd, if not vague. What makes it vague is that we don't know or don't try to know the motivations of either of the two men.

In Brokeback Mountain, it was a love story. Both men wanted it. Both men desired each other. The same can't be said here. It's not like in gay porn where the so-called straight guy will only pretend to be opposed to gay sex. No, here, the straight, married guy is authentic in his heterosexuality. The other guy isn't even wholly gay. At best, he's bisexual but seems to prefer women more. Therefore, the question is why. Why do they have sex?

Jack Black (High Fidelity and School of Rock) stars as Dan Landsman, a man who works at a nondescript, small business in Pittsburgh. He's also organizing his high school reunion., Class of '94. Yet, he and his team are not having much luck with attendance. When Dan sees a fellow classmate on television in a Banana Boat ad, Dan decides to try to use that classmate's fame to attract others and increase attendance.

James Marsden (X-Men and Enchanted) co-stars as Oliver Lawless, the actor in the Banana Boat ad who currently lives in Los Angeles. Apparently, he was popular in high school and 20 years later still is popular among the people he left in Pittsburgh. He's not so popular in Hollywood, so when Dan comes along and starts stroking his ego, Oliver decides to go to the reunion and continue to have his ego and perhaps other parts of his body stroked.

After contriving a reason to fly to L.A., and after spending the night bar-hopping, the two go back to Oliver's apartment. Oliver then initiates sex and Dan doesn't resist. Dan goes along and the two have intercourse. At first, the suggestion is floated that sex is the bargaining or trade-off to get Oliver to the reunion, which Dan has already established he's desperate to do.

Yet, that's not really the case. By the end, the question is asked to Dan of why he did it. He doesn't give an answer. An ensuing conversation that could explore the fluidity of sexuality or the depths of Dan's quiet desperation is cut short. Oliver himself isn't even asked the question at all. He's reduced to a horndog who felt overly flattered, or was just too high and too drunk out of his mind to be discriminating or inhibited in any way.

The movie proceeds for the middle section to then do nothing but make us not like any of these two guys. Both the behavior of Dan and Oliver gets to be so atrocious. Oliver simply has no concept of boundaries. When he returns to Pittsburgh, the fact he would consider and then go along with sleeping in the house of the man with whom he committed adultery, while cuddling up to the cuckold wife proves he has no morals or ethics.

The fact that Oliver would then give sex advice to Dan's virginal son, with regard to a threesome, shows a sheer lack of respect. Oliver is a guest in Dan's home, a home with a wife, newborn baby girl and a teenage boy all within earshot, and Oliver brings some random girl he picked up at a bar and has sex with her in Oliver's house. Again, he has no respect.

Dan is just coming up with all these ridiculous lies and manipulations, particularly to his elderly boss, played by Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent and Arrested Development). The movie makes the mistake that all throughout the film, none of the classmates helping to organize the reunion apparently like or want to spend time with him. Dan seemingly has no friends, and his attempts to hang out with people is always met with him being shut out and left lonely. There's no real reason given. This conceit is simply hammered over and over until you end up disliking the people who are shunning Dan as well as disliking Dan himself.

The movie goes for the same level of awkwardness as in I Love You, Man (2009), but the difference is the two main characters were vastly more likeable. The two main characters here aren't likeable. They're at best confusing and at worst repellant. It builds to a squirm-worthy moment on the reunion dance-floor that achieves its desired effect of embarrassment, but completely undermines any hope for either character, especially Oliver. Yet, by the end, the movie wants us to be okay with him, but that's impossible.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong sexual material, nudity, language and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.


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