I am one of the few people who disliked Luca Guadagnino’s gay love story “Call Me By Your Name,” which was released in limited theaters in the Philippines at the recent Cinema One Film Festival, and will soon be released commercially.
Based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman, and screenplay by James Ivory, the coming-of-age tale is revered by plenty of critics for being “sensual,” “erotic,” and “nuanced.” I have an extremely opposing perspective. I’d like to think I wasn’t sucked into “groupthink,” because, really, I am perplexed by the hype. Some spoilers ahead.
The multilingual love story is set in the summer of 1983, “somewhere in Northern Italy,” where a 17-year-old American-Italian Jewish boy, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), falls in love for the first time—with American Jewish Oliver (Armie Hammer), his father’s hired doctoral student.
It’s a lengthy film, over two hours, but it feels more like five hours for its plodding treatment. Guadagnino was clearly aiming for subtlety and underlying sexual attraction, a quiet tease beneath all that talk of etymologies and academic babble. But there is no sense of tension or chemistry between the very young Chalamet and the old Hammer—the latter having more chemistry with DiCaprio in “J.Edgar.”
Elio obsessively observes Oliver, a real-life Adonis, with intimidation and curiosity, and the older man treats the kid with stark indifference. Then, out of the blue, Elio admits his feelings for Oliver—through a coded dialogue. Hence, they begin their secret relationship with Elio licking Oliver’s lips in a very laughable way.
It’s a painfully boring and highly pretentious film with undertones of hilarity (even the famous fruit scene is riotous—plus icky). The conversations are extremely cheesy, and for a film that prides itself for its “nuanced” treatment, it is especially wordy. So wordy that Elio’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, explains the entire film to you in the end, so unabashedly literal and shamefully crowd-pleasing.
And it’s no plot twist that Elio’s liberated parents know about the secret affair (it’s pretty obvious), and that dad is gay, too. Not only does Stuhlbarg’s professor of archaeology character strongly emit the vibe as soon as he appears on camera, but it’s also revealed through his slideshow lecture on Greek statues to a sweating Oliver—the corniest scene in the film.
Guadagnino calls his film “family-oriented”—a movie that promotes pedophilia through Elio’s parents encouraging their son, a minor, to go away with his older lover, who even looks way older than 24.
And during this time when Hollywood is killing off alleged pedophiles (Kevin Spacey), it celebrates Oliver and Elio’s love affair—just because it’s crammed with American-Jewish culturati, pretty boys, a beautiful summer home, and a romantic and quaint European location. Such bizarre times.
1 out of 5 stars
In Philippine cinemas on January 31, 2018