This might be the most offensive movie that I've seen in a long time. The movie is a justification of pedophilia and uses manipulative techniques to make it seem "okay." It is extraordinarily sexual and graphic, both in images and implications. I honestly haven't felt that uncomfortable in a movie for a long time and it is mindblowing that people are justifying this kind of film in light of #metoo and in mind of "No means no." This movie is so R-rated that I'm amazed it is not considered NC-17.
DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino
How in the world is everyone loving this movie? Is it because it is so promoting of a homosexual relationship that people straight up ignore that Oscar is an adult and that Elio is a teenager? I thought we were past this in our culture. As a culture, there has always been this weird double standards for sexuality when it comes to certain demographics. I've been thinking about Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo and Bell, Book, and Candle. I also think about all of the teen raunchy comedies where younger male students try seducing attractive female teachers. But as a culture, we've all said, "Gross. No. That's wrong. I don't know what was wrong with us." Why are we regressing to that very uncomfortable trope and calling it beautiful?
I often scoff at critiques of movies that say that storytellers are manipulative. I mean, inherently, all film is manipulative. You want to elicit a reaction, whether it be emotional and / or social. That is what storytellers do. But I don't love when people say that things are conspiratorial, attempting to dupe audiences. There are moments in Call Me By Your Name that I questioned that entire philosophy. There were straight up moments where the movie started to address whether or not this was a predatory relationship and something very weird happened in those moments that made my jaw drop. Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, is normally very confident. He's criticized by the other characters of being so confident that he's actually annoying cocky. Elio is very removed and into teenage stuff throughout. He's reading his little books and listening to his records. He wears goofy '80s shirts and hangs out with his friends. However, whenever the question of "Is Oliver preying on this younger kid?" pops up, the personalities invert. All of the suddenly, Elio is very confident and knows exactly how to handle relationships. Oliver becomes all shy and doesn't know what to do with himself. What this does is makes the age differential seem minor. That's cheating. You can't hand Oliver Elio's lines and Elio Oliver's line. (By the way, if that's why the movie is called Call Me By Your Name, I quit because that just admits that you are doing something slimy.) Oliver acts like an adult at every point except when it is appropriate. That's not character depth because there's no acknowledgment of that personality trait. It's very subtle. Those moments aren't part of what makes Oliver or Elio interesting. Those moments are strategic. They disappear the second the plot moves forward. There's no attention to the character change, so those moments are for the benefit of the audience and getting behind the "romance." Cheap trick. I don't like it.
My students went out and saw this one first. Of course, it was the rebellious one of the group. Well, that and The Shape of Water. They also rushed out to see that. I told them my hesitancy about seeing that movie and what it could do to them. I actually kind of advised them not to see it. As you can see, I am very inspirational. (Oh look! A tub of ice cream. I'm going to eat my sadness away.) They came back and said, "Well, in Italy, the age of consent is way lower so it's fine." (I'm paraphrasing them because it was a long discussion.) I have a problem with that as well because some issues are inherently moral or not / that law is for people close in age. Right and wrong don't necessarily change because of geopolitical location. But the bigger issue that I have is that both characters identify as American. They are international travelers, but they culturally identify with a certain set of norms. They both know that this should be icky. But Oliver starts touching Elio when he's shirtless. This is where I'm shocked that no one is up in arms about "no" meaning "no". Elio gets visibly upset by Oliver's touch. He begins turning against Oliver for this invasion. Oliver even has a girl touch him. This is predatory as all get out. What makes Oliver think that is okay to go after anyone like this, let alone your hosts' seventeen year old son? Oliver's confession of this moment later in the movie only verifies that this moment isn't innocent, but rather a test to see how Elio feels about him. This was the opening salvo for this relationship and it was all planned. That's what a predator does. Why does no one really see that? Apparently, the book goes deeper into trying to justify Oliver's behavior, saying that Elio only hated him because he liked it so much. How is this in line with "no means no"? People can't be made to love someone else. That's not the way it works. It's so gross.
Then there is the manipulation of others. This moment really isn't even close to how people are allowed to treat each other. Both Oliver and Elio seduce women throughout the film. Part of this seems to be to cover up their own homosexual tendencies. As a cultural thing, I get that. This takes place in 1983. It's not like we live in a tolerance utopia or whatever, but I get that 1983 might not be a haven for these two. But they full on seduce these women. Elio has intercourse with this girl that he grew up with multiple times throughout the film. She professes her feelings for him and it is implied that these two have been building to this relationship. But he uses her for his sexual frustrations with Oliver. That seems a little rapey. He implies that he is equally invested in the relationship until she directly confronts him for being distant. Oliver might not be much better. The movie is from Elio's perspective, but we see where Oliver is leading women on. He passionately kisses a girl on a dance floor and takes a beat to suggestively dance with a woman while on a date with Elio. He eventually reveals at the end (I'm not bolding spoilers because I don't want anyone seeing this movie) that he's getting married. I understand that there was a cultural necessity for duplicity for most of history, but these two are using others for their own needs. The girl who loved Elio? She is okay with just being friends afterwards. I call malarky. She is vulnerable and invested in Elio and just seems cool when he's not that into her post-intercourse. That's very convenient.
Finally, the speech from Dad. There is nothing my kids could do that would make me love them any less. I will love them no matter how they turn out. But there is the attitude of "I will always love you and I hope you find happiness" and saying "I will not protect you from people who live different lives." Honestly, the relationship problem between these two is that there is a power dynamic that is so skewed that it just comes off as perverted. Oliver lives an adult's lifestyle. His problems involve world travel and a girl that he's engaged to. He doesn't weep when things go poorly in the relationship. Instead, he fills the role of the father for Elio when things go badly. It is never their joint problem. Oliver has to take care of Elio's delicate adolescent reactions. When things go poorly for Elio, he turns to the adult (Oliver) to take care of things. When Oliver isn't there, he turns to his parents. Elio often shows that he is incapable of making adult decisions because he needs his mom to pick him up. For Dad to think that what they had was special is disturbing as heck. Also, and this is a big one for me, their relationship is entirely sexual. They have little in common outside of both being intellectuals. They don't ever talk or bond. They just are sexually attracted to each other. At best, there is some verbal sparring, but that's it. Throughout the film, I was wondering why I was so appalled at this movie, yet I really like Harold and Maude. But Harold and Maude was about a nontraditional friendship. It is all about the bonding element. The sexual element is almost not present. This is almost exclusively sexual and without depth. I can't stand this movie.
Please don't see this movie. It is revolting. Don't even see it on a dare. I saw it because I see all of the Academy Award nominations. But between this and The Shape of Water, I don't know what the theme of this year is...
...besides the Battle of Dunkirk.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.