Writer & Director: Stephen Dunn
Cast: Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Joanne Kelly, Sofia Benzhaf, Aliocha Schneider, Isabella Rossellini.
I’ve mentioned so much by now that I decided a while ago to stop watching sequels, prequels, remakes, and superhero movies as a general rule. It’s not steadfast, but it has helped me reduce the amount of bullshit content that I ingest. About a year ago I also decided to do something I never used to: watch a trailer before deciding whether to watch a movie or series. If something about it grabs me, I’m in. Otherwise, it’s out. I must say that even the most disappointing viewing experiences over the past year since I implemented this system were still far and away better than the movies and shows that made me make this decision in the first place. Forced to discover hidden gems, I have found singular content that was inspirational and captivating. More and more, now, when I am writing these posts, I find that the movies I watch were written and directed by the same person, showcasing a much more personal project than what the latest Underworld, xXx, or Resident Evil movie can offer (just to name three sequels that have opened this month). Closet Monster is exactly the kind of movie that I never would have discovered if all the studio trash were still clamoring at me to be viewed. I must say that the trailer is wildly misleading. Yes, the film is a coming of age story, but it’s also so much more – and the film is hard to categorize.
The story centers around Canadian teenager Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup). He is 18 years old and finds himself at a crossroads and in a confusing period in his life. He is a quiet and extremely artistic kid, who passes his time with his best friend (Sofia Benzhaf) creating prosthetics and then having her model his cosplay creations. His parents are divorced and he spends most of the time with his father (Aaron Abrams), who is a bit over the top cartoonishly awful. Oscar is also coming to terms with his sexuality, so having a father who makes gay jokes, talks badly about people using an effeminate lisp-y high pitch voice, and uses the “f” word indiscriminately drives the point home extremely. Oscar doesn’t get along with his mother (Joanne Kelly), because he perceives her divorcing her husband as abandonment. Oscar is also crushing big time on his coworker Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) at the hardware store he works part-time for, a cool and aloof guy that embodies all that Oscar is not: confident, comfortable, and mysterious.
If the movie were just a straightforward coming of age drama it would work, but there is something whimsical and fantastical about this film. You know that something is different when the small pet rat Oscar has begins to talk (in the voice of Isabella Rossellini, which is hilarious and inspired). There are visions, fantasies, and visual allegories for Oscar’s state of mind or what he is going through. These stylistic choices elevate the movie. The film is not perfect, every character with the exception of the protagonist is very thinly drawn and not given much of an arc other than the archetypal purpose they serve. But I enjoyed watching the film, and it’s a very good LGBT drama that doesn’t focus on the coming out process, on too much sexuality drama in general, and doesn’t trivialize gay men as sexually obsessed fiends. It’s a lovely and charming whimsical Canadian tale that I would recommend. And it’s on Netflix, so easy to watch on a rainy night at home.