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I Am Michael

17 Jun

I Am Michael — directed by Justin Kelly. LGBTQ-drama. 98 minutes Color 2015.

no stars

The Story: From being mated in a homosexual relationship, a gay man enters a sexual conversion institution and emerges as a heterosexual married pastor.
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In his late 30s James Franco is too old to play the lead and too fat.

20 pounds have sabotaged his appearance, and the rest of the picture is undermined by its preaching tone, homosexuality as normal or homosexuality as aberrant. In either reach, the script is flaccid, and the acting wrecked by amateur actors, and damaged by Franco’s failure to create a human being resolved enough to be damaged by his resolution to be sexually reformed.

One of the requirements of certain, but not all, movie stars is to maintain movie-weight. Marlon Brando sacrificed his career for an ice cream cone: Elia Kazan turned him down as the star of The Arrangement because Brando had lost his figure. From her twenties, the focus of Elizabeth Taylor’s celebrity was her double-chins. Why? Because it is not talent but beauty that is such stars’ chief reward to the movie-goer. A picture palace is the nearest we get to the royalty of those whom God has elected to be that lovely.

Beauty is something movie stars were born with: it came over the transom: it came in the mail. Elizabeth Taylor in one of her last roles said of her character: “I look like a bungalow,” but, unlike James Franco, she had been famous all her life and we grew up with her, she was ours. James Franco is not ours. He was already 31 when, in 127 Hours, he suddenly came before us allied with all the charm of his grown-up beauty.

This allowed his talent to be shown.

His hard work released that talent. Three years after I Am Michael, he begins The Deuce, and is brilliant as identical twins in the seamy world of ‘70s 42nd Street, N.Y.C. There he is down to move-acting-weight. Yes, he is back in shape. Those two brothers must be beautiful for us to vouchsafe our allegiance to them. The beauty of youth is where hope begins. There, James Franco, in his 40s, looks to be in his twenties.

It is insulting to us, irrespective of the duel of straight and gay, that Franco is too fat. As though shape when nude did not matter for a gay man. It does matter. Sex is ambitious. Fat people when naked are attractive to those attracted to fat people, if fat people are their required type. But Franco was never one of those, any more than was Elizabeth Taylor.

So, it was more than a rude and traitorous cowardliness that undermines this boring, foolish, and ill-begotten film, as it was a deed of misguided charity for it to be made at all. A successful movie cannot, by definition, be made with such a failure of vision.

The problem is not that Jams Franco, or any one else, is fat, but that James Franco belongs to a tradition of movie beauty, just as picture palaces used to be. You go to such movies, to such places, to such stars for something special. To betray it is to betray the deepest, most ingrained, and most justified of expectations. It’s what we paid our money for. For it, even fine acting is no solace. Daniel Day Lewis who belonged to both the tradition of beautiful actor and the tradition of fine character actor, sometimes failed as as a character actor, but be never failed to maintain his figure.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: Method, James Franco

 
 
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