What ever inclined the programmers of Outfest 2013 to open the eleven-day celebration of gay, lesbian and transgendered cinema with C.O.G we may never know. Did they not anticipate that a summer ruling by the Supreme Court might not deliver a celebratory atmosphere that as Festival Director Laura Ivey called it a “second summer of love”? The love was surely there in the crowded auditorium of the venerable old theatre, The Orpheum, (in downtown Los Angeles), as a rapt and excited audience inclined to watch the few first moments Kyle Alvarez’s cinematic adaption of David Sedaris’s short story Naked. And hour and half later, most folks left disappointed with this film. It is not a bad film, but it certainly was not the right film to open this festival, this year, or any year for that matter.
We start on a bus with a series of funny vignettes where our lead character; David or Samuel as he likes to be called is subject to a series of visitors who sit next to him only to reveal his own cockiness, arrogance and inability to relate. We get off the bus in Oregon, were our character takes up working on an apple farm. The lead is played with great sensitivity by Broadway actor Jonathan Groff (Glee), who easily emotes. Along the way we met the farm’s curmudgeonly owner (Dean Stockwell), a romantically interested co-worker (Midnight in Paris‘ Corey Stoll), and Jon, who builds clunky jade clocks shaped like the state of Oregon. The latter Jon, who is a “child of God” and actively converts Samuel into a good church member while visible attempting to control his own outbreaks of rage. Samuel is converted in a strange scene where the romantic-co-worker returns and attempts to rape him—it is here that Samuel finds God. So far, not a very good movie to give to a rapt group of homos. This movie ends with the same ambiguity that it begins with—a teary-eyed Samuel/David is left to walk down the road until presumably until his next adventure, which will hopefully NOT be made into a movie.
More a series of vignettes than a coherent film, C.O.D. does not deliver the goods needed to open a film festival with this audience. That the lead character is gay seems to be the only ticket into this film festival for surely a scene in which another gay man, who owns a bizarre collection of dildoes attempt to rape is not a message that the Outfest people should be endorsing. This gay man, as played by Jonathan Groff is curiously asexual, a sponge on which everyone around him somewhat determines his fate. That he has no navigation, is the stuff of movies about young men, but a point of view, a personality of some kind would have helped, or at least encouraged the audience to care.
In the post-film analysis held in the parking lot of the Orpheum most tempered their remarks but without a doubt, all were disappointed. The evening is saved by the great party attended by an attractive, informative group of people. How often does one get to sing Erasure’s Chains of Love while standing in line with the newly slender Perez Hilton?