Movie Review - Lazy Eye

Writer-director Tim Kirkman begins his film with his protagonist at his optometrist getting an eye exam. He's diagnosed with amblyopia and he needs trifocals. Amblyopia is the technical term for the condition known as lazy eye. Kirkman proceeded to name his movie after that condition. One would then suspect this condition would factor into the narrative somewhat, but it doesn't. It's mentioned but that's it. One would think that the vision problem, sight or perception would factor into the movie a bit more strongly, but it doesn't. One then wonders what was the point of the scene or Kirkman's choice to name the whole movie after it.

Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Grimm) stars as Dean, a graphic designer in Los Angeles who lives in Silverlake. He's a bit frustrated with his job and life when one night he gets an email from an ex-boyfriend, which prompts him to arrange a weekend getaway in Joshua Tree with his ex. He's gingerly. He's in his late 30's or early 40's. He loves esoteric films like Harold & Maude. He's a former artist and a former socialist.

Aaron Costa Ganis (Odd Mom Out and Jessica Jones) co-stars as Alex, the ex-boyfriend in question from Ohio. He got his MBA degree in New York City where he met Dean. They had a bit of a whirlwind romance, a lot of sex, the summer before 9/11. Any more details aren't really conveyed, making it difficult to assess their relationship and whether we should root for it or not.

There is the inclusion of Michaela Watkins (Saturday Night Live and Casual) who plays Mel, a good friend and co-worker to Dean, but, other than that, Kirkman's film is a two-hander. In a lot of ways, this movie takes from Richard Linklater's trilogy that began with Before Sunrise (1995). Instead of a writer, one is a graphic artist. Instead of government work, one is in business and/or finance. Instead of wondering around some European city, the two guys here wonder around the Mojave.

Kirkman has a scene of Dean and Alex walking and talking, but the scene doesn't go on as long as Linklater has his characters walk and talk. If anything, Kirkman has the two mainly in a non-heated pool. Kirkman doesn't have as intelligent and as engaging conversations as Linklater, which would have been fine if he had really illuminated the relationship between the two better.

The flaw in Kirkman's script is evident the more and more it boxes Dean into a corner, while excluding Alex. Kirkman refuses to reveal much of anything about Alex. Alex is a mystery in this movie that Kirkman has no interest in solving. Apparently, 15 years ago, Alex ditched Dean for another guy and ran off without a note or saying goodbye and remained hidden with no digital footprint for 15 years until he sends the email. The fact that Kirkman never delves into the whys of that is fatal to this film. Why did Alex choose that other guy? Why did he leave without saying goodbye?

There are other unanswered questions about Alex. Dean asks him about what he's doing for work and money, and Alex doesn't answer. Dean asks him how long has his relationships been, which would have given some indication of what his life was like in the absent 15 years, but Alex doesn't answer. He's just this mysterious traveler.

Aaron Costa Ganis in 'Lazy Eye'
Kirkman might not have wanted any self-reflection on Alex's part. He probably wanted it to be Dean's story, the story of how this one weekend spurs Dean to better his life and the things he already has. In that regard, any potential between Dean and Alex is just a ruse. As much as Hollywood has been criticized for what's been called the Magical Negro or the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, which are stock characters that aren't developed as real people but essentially as tools or ruses for the main character to learn something, Kirkman makes Alex a version of that. Alex is a bit of a mix of the two types. Alex is closer to what critic Matt Patches calls a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, yet Alex isn't manic. He's just gay and flighty. He's a Fairy Pixie Dream Boy.

Because Kirkman has all these unanswered questions about Alex and never fills those gaps, only to have him evaporate in the end as quickly as he materialized, Alex isn't really a fleshed out character as much as he's just a plot device. That being said, Aaron Costa Ganis is a gorgeous guy. Kirkman couldn't have asked for a better Fairy Pixie Dream Boy.

Not Rated but contains nudity and sexual situations.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 26 mins.


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