It’s no doubt possible to tell a compelling story about the post-equality lives of handsome, professionally successful gay men, looking back to their pasts in search of lost passion. But writer-director Tim Kirkman’s tedious Lazy Eye isn’t it. This is a shallow snapshot of First World problems and feeble conflicts that makes you despair for the state of gay-themed drama, perhaps even more so because it’s capably acted and assembled with a slick sheen. As the “underwear by” credit would indicate, there’s enough toned skin on display to ensure some exposure in queer programming platforms, but c’mon guys, we deserve better than this.
The title refers to a recurring vision disorder suffered by Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), a Los Angeles graphic artist in his early 40s. The problem is seemingly triggered by an out-of-the-blue email from Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis), who disappeared without a goodbye at the end of a hot summer fling 15 years earlier. Dean’s first instinct is to give the man who broke his heart an abrupt kiss-off. But after an increasingly flirtatious exchange of emails in which Alex uses criminally punishable phrases like “still chasing my bliss,” Dean invites him to spend a weekend at his house in the Southern California desert, near Joshua Tree. Nothing original so far, but nice real estate.
Even lazier imagination.
Swarthy Greek-American Alex doesn’t even get his bag inside the house before nervous greetings segue into frenetic sex, and from there, into wishy-washy nostalgia and a lot of pedestrian talk about change and maturity. Occasional flashbacks show them meeting cute in a New York bar the day of Alex’s MBA graduation. Back then, Dean was a semi-radical liberal who loved Harold and Maude and aspired to be a real artist, while Alex had yet to discover the soullessness of the Wall Street world he was about to conquer. Now Dean is doing bland movie posters for studio marketing departments and smoking prescription weed for anxiety.
The closest thing to a dramatic spark is the revelation that — spolier alert! — Dean is married to a frequently absent husband in the film industry. That news causes Alex to bolt. At least for a minute. For the rest of the movie they draw together and pull apart, scrambling over desert rock formations or moseying around an abandoned Western movie set while they drone on about relationship fatigue, wanting or not wanting kids and craving the excitement of their youth. “I’m talking about feeling young and sexy and alive,” says sweet dullard Alex. “I’m talking about passion.” Seriously.
In case the half-baked symbolism of Dean’s optical issues wasn’t enough, we also get dead desert mice regularly turning up in his pool, and the lonely howl of coyotes beneath the moon. The locations are certainly pretty, as are the actors with their tidy matching beards, lounging about in tasteful nude scenes with lots of meticulous crotch-masking. Some of those moments are almost Austin Powers-worthy. But Kirkman’s characters are not the least bit distinctive. Aside from Dean’s unseen husband Brian and his clingy college pal and work colleague Mel (Michaela Watkins), the two leads exist in a complete void, their inarticulate emotional yearning accompanied by gentle guitar tracks and whiny indie vocals. The question of whether or not they have a future together stops being interesting long before it stops being asked.
Dean complains that whenever he tries to do something different in a movie poster design, the client always steers him back to the same tired old idea of a landscape shot with faces superimposed in the sky. It’s a sad irony that while making fun of those outmoded conventions, that’s exactly the kind of drippy, cliché-ridden movie Kirkman has delivered.
Venue: Provincetown Film Festival
Production company: T42 Entertainment
Cast: Lucas Near-Verbrugghe, Aaron Costa Ganis, Michaela Watkins, Drew Barr
Director-screenwriter: Tim Kirkman
Producers: Todd Shotz, Tim Kirkman
Executive producers: John Ainsworth, Gill Holland, Zvi Howard Rosenman, Leesa Wagner
Director of photography: Gabe Mayhan
Production designer: Frances Lynn Hernandez
Costume designer: Wendy Chuck
Music: Steven Argila
Editor: Caitlin Dixon
Casting: Judith Sunga
Sales: T42 Entertainment
Not rated, 87 minutes.