Every once in a while, it seems like a genre has exhausted all possibilities. Romantic comedies are a great example. There is only so many ways you can tell the story of struggling through wacky hijinks to find love, after all. Then, a movie comes along that tweaks up the formula. But just going against the grain does not make a movie good.
Straight Up is a romantic comedy directed by James Sweeney. The movie centers on a young man named Todd. Frustrated with his love life, Todd comes to the realization he is not gay. When he meets Rory, the two form a relationship that questions what a deep bond really is. Friendship, romance, and family are all explored in the movie.
Two things stand out immediately about the movie. Sweeney has given Straight Up a very distinct look and feel. Initially, the film plays out more like a series of connected segments. It is an interesting decision that distinguishes Straight Up from similar films. Instead of various scenes that give insight into the characters, the movie begins with rapid fire moments. This helps the audience quickly learn about the two leads. It is not without its problems, however.
The pacing presents two issues. Straight Up is filled with biting humor and razor sharp wit. Unfortunately, much of this is in danger of being lost in the quick repartee. There is also a sense that many comments are made just for the sake of saying something shocking or silly. The story is at its best when it allows itself to slow down. This is seen when Rory meets Tood’s parents and when the two question their relationship. These times are more evenly paced and show off the intimacy between the two.
The movie also has an engaging look. Straight Up is shot in a 4:3 aspect ratio that adds to the story. The movie surrounds itself in clean lines that seem to put its characters in the boxes they feel trapped in. Many of the shots have the cast facing the camera. They are speaking to the audience as they talk to each other. Sweeney is forsaking grandeur for emotion.
Of course, none of this would matter if Sweeney did not have a good story to tell. Straight Up goes beyond its biting script and personal camerawork. It is the strong storytelling that separates it from other rom coms. The film examines many of the same issues the genre focuses on. It even does it in the same lighthearted way. Much like the best rom-coms, Straight Up works because the audience is working things out with the potential couple.
The movie does not go with the typical straight person and gay person fall in love and now do not know what to do. It explores what is to be in a relationship and how deep one can be without physical intimacy. Straight Up is filled with deep philosophical conversations that trying to answer the question. Still, it never forgets it is a rom com. The story remains fun even in its most serious moments.
Straight Up is a romantic comedy that does things just a little different. The conflict is not in finding true love but in finding out what it is. The movie is laugh out loud funny with performances that are as exhausting as they are good. Director James Sweeney uses the camera to add emotion to his tale. Along the way, it also tells a story that is more heartwarming than many others in the genre.