What an Idiot (Canada)
Burned by a terrible experience with his ex, Nick (Peter Benson) swears off all women (for a few seconds) until he lays eyes on smouldering new boss, Jackie (Julia Benson) in the Vancouver-shot romcom What an Idiot. (Vancouverites will be pleased to know that our fair city gets generous screen time.)
The bumbling Nick inadvertently finds himself on the in with the new office ice-queen when he accidentally lies and tells her he's a closeted gay man.
Since she's a fag hag, the two become BFFs faster (actually, too fast for believability) than it takes to find a hookup on Grindr, which leads to all manner of social and sexual-related shenanigans. As she sets him up on dates with men, he finds himself falling head-over-heels for her. D'oh!
The performances in the initial workplace scenes lean too heavily on the cartoonish and contrived. Once the Bensons (a real-life couple) leave the office behind and Jackie sheds her cold front, the acting duo's effortless likability and chemistry comes to the fore, one of the film's main strengths.
Straight men pretending to be (or mistaken to be) gay, bromances, and same-sex marriage have been tackled before in comedy in everything from I Love You, Man to I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, as straight-male culture has tried to awkwardly integrate sexual identity issues and manhood into the mainstream. In this case, the story take place with little of the homophobic stigma left and more of a matter-of-fact playing field. And so, one of the hazards of this subgenre, awkward stereotyping, is avoided for the most part—although clichés do creep in at times (moreso comedic ones). The film tries to play broadly enough to straddle straight, bisexual, and gay audiences with enough material to keep all engaged.
The story does light-heartedly replicate the straight equivalent of what closeted gay men experience in hiding their true sexuality—something that several dramatic films have tried to tackle in earnest. Yet in 21st century Canada, the cross-sexual-orientation banter could have gone further. For instance, things could have been fresher had there been an integrated gay side character among Nick's troupe of buddies, and in this post-same-sex-marriage era in this country, a protest staged against same-sex marriage needed more justification.
Ultimately though, it's a sweet, big-hearted film that works overtime to please. While the story's proclivities for the outlandish distract, the lower-key interactions provide the most compelling elements. Perhaps the production should have taken its own moral to heart: sometimes you don't need to put on a far-fetched act when you're likeable the way you were born.
What an Idiot screens on Friday (December 5) at 9:45 p.m. and Saturday (December 6) at 3 p.m. at the Whistler Film Festival.