I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m burnt out. We’re only four weeks into the term, and I already feel like we’ve been at it for months. In times of high stress, we all need something to cope, and for me, that comfort comes in the form of film. Specifically, coming of age comedies. There’s just something about them that brings a lightheartedness to the world. But at the same time, they can explore such important topics in ways that no other kind of film can.
Recently, at the end of a stressful week, I decided to treat myself to what I would consider my favorite film of the year thus far: Straight Up, written and directed by James Sweeney. I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched it since it came out on Netflix back in July, but my ability to quote almost every line should be some indication.
Inspired by the sharp wit and rapid-fire dialogue of the classic comedies of Hepburn and Grant, Straight Up takes the LGBT coming of age comedy formula and flips it on its head. Where most tend to focus on a high school age character, Straight Up’s Todd (played by Sweeney) is a 20-something man with OCD and a strong aversion to bodily fluids. And his journey of self-discovery isn’t as straightforward as many other films might have you believe.
Todd has always been gay, but he’s never had a desire for sex. He starts to question his sexuality and wonders if maybe he is straight, or at least bisexual. Soon after, he meets Rory, a struggling actress in LA, and the two instantly click. Todd, the always-been-gay 20-something, starts a relationship with a woman, but even with a strong romantic connection, he still finds that there’s something more to his identity than just black and white.
The romance that blossoms between Todd and Rory is one that tugs on your heartstrings. Their chemistry jumps off the screen, their witty back-and-forth banter brings a smile to your face. But aside from this, the most important aspect of the film lies in Todd’s questioning of self and sexuality.
For Todd, as is the case in real life, sexuality is fluid. And the depiction of this fluidity and journey of questioning that Sweeney brings to the film is so important. As someone who has personally struggled with these very same challenges, it meant so much to see it on screen. I saw myself in Todd, and this representation in itself was a comfort all its own. Straight Up is beautiful. It’s got a sharp script, gorgeous cinematography, and perfect chemistry. It’s everything you’d want in a film and more. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go turn on my TV right now immediately and watch it for the hundredth time. I really need it. — Bren Swogger
Photo: Straight Up (2019, dir. James Sweeney)