- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Call Me by Your Name

| December 2, 2017

Do you ever want to feel artistically superior to all of your friends? Maybe you are tired of your friends talking about how great the latest action film is and want to sound better.Maybe you want to impress your date with obscure film trivia. Maybe you think that knowing a lot about film history and art will somehow validate your meaningless existence and will replace that ever-growing pit in your heart that tells you that you don’t matter and no one cares about you/ Well don’t worry! Because I watch a bunch of art house films and can give you recommendations on what to watch and what to feel superior about! So without any delay, let’s get pretentious!

I think hype can be a dangerous thing for a film. I think this film was walking a very dangerous line. Call Me by Your Name premiered at Sundance this year, and was a giant success. Everyone loved it. Everyone talked about how amazing it was. And it cemented itself as an early Oscar contender. I have even talked about it on the podcast about how excited I was for this film. But that was 11 months ago. I have waited 11 months for this film. And often when hype lasts this long, it tends to rot and sour. My expectations go up far too high, and I end up hating or disliking the film. This film manages to pull off the hype, and I didn’t dislike this film at all. It’s not flawless. But there are certain things here worth praising.

Call Me by Your Name is the latest film from Italian Director Luca Guadagnino, who is previously known for his work like A Bigger Splash which I reviewed a little over a year ago. Call Me by Your Name follows a young seventeen-year-old boy who goes with his family to their vacation home in Italy. His family also brings along a friend of the fathers, played by Armie Hammer. Armie Hammer’s character and the seventeen-year-old end up falling in love and having a lot of sex. In very basic terms, that is the plot of this film. So if you can’t handle gay stories, this probably isn’t for you. Because this film is SUPER GAY, but in a great way.

The first problem I had with the film is that it is difficult to see past the privilege in certain scenes for this film. It’s a good thing this film is about a gay kid otherwise I could see critics ripping this film apart for being so rich and white that it is unrelatable for most audiences. There is an argument in this film where two characters debate the origin of the word “apricot”. There is another argument where two characters angrily debate how a musician would perform their piece if they were trying to mimic another musician. Both scenes I was thinking “is this the angry discussion you wanted to have?” That on top of how much money this family is throwing around, it put my poor college ass into a mood.

Another aspect of this film that I should mention is the idea of the relationship between a man in his thirties and a boy who would typically be considered a minor. The film never even mentions that this might not be the best. In fact, the film sells the relationship as one of the most beautiful things in the entire world. And to be fair, the film isn’t promoting relationships with large age gaps. It is just promoting this relationship in particular. But the idea of “this relationship does have a big gap” was present in my mind the entire time. And with the current climate in Hollywood, it is hard not to have that idea lingering. But if I’m not going to mark down The Punisher for being released in a time of gun violence, I’m not going to mark down Call Me by Your Name for being released in a time of sexual predators.

Very briefly I will mention the cinematography, I wasn’t a fan of the slight shakiness of the camera. Almost like it’s on a dolly, but the dolly is also broken or being operated poorly. I know some people are a fan of this choice, but I had an issue with it, and it took me out of the film. But I won’t talk further about it because the composition of the shots didn’t do much to excite me and the slight shakiness is the only thing worth mentioning.

Where I begin to praise the film is with the acting. Walking into the film, I was pretty cautious because I had a bad gut feeling about the lead played by Timothee Chalamet. I have liked him in other things I had seen him in, but I was worried that he was going to be awful in this film. It is probably because he recently started popping up on lists saying he would be nominated for Best Actor and whenever I see someone this young on those lists, I get very skeptical. But after the film, I will say that he did do a good job. For actors in his age group, he is certainly one of the better ones. But with him, it is interesting because he isn’t amazing. He has the opposite problem that I have with other actors in his age group. Typically I see actors like Ansel Elgort or Logan Lerman being able to say lines somewhat believably but struggle to display the emotion on their face and in their eyes. Chalamet is the rare opposite. I feel like a lot of the lines he gives in this film are pretty poorly delivered, but he is so expressive with his face and with his eyes that it makes up for it. And after seeing the film, I would be okay if he was nominated for the film, but that also might just be because this has been a pretty weak year regarding Best Actor. We have this and Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, and that is really about it, everyone else is up in the air. So if Chalamet is nominated, I won’t be too angry.

The other actor I want to praise is Armie Hammer. Think about the kind of characters that Armie Hammer plays. The heroic manly man. And he is good at playing those characters. Armie Hammer gives a character a blowjob in this film. He doesn’t receive a blowjob. He gives someone a blowjob in this film. This kind of character is so unlike what Hammer normally plays, but he also manages to make the character completely authentic. I never thought that he was playing out of his range as I do with other range building performances. He makes the performance so his own while also looking so effortless in the film. Regarding the Oscar race, currently, I’ve seen a shift toward praising Michael Stuhlbarg. Stuhlbarg plays Chalamet’s father and is present but is never really showy. He plays a father well, but he never did anything to “wow” me. That is until the end of the film, where he gives this long monologue on how to recognize love and what to do with that. And the entire theater was sobbing by the end of the monologue. So I can see why he is being praised. I still think that Hammer is better, but both are great.

I would finally like to talk about the direction of the film. The film is quite flawed. I’m by no means saying this is the best film of the year; it has its problems. The biggest being the fact that it is way too long. But I genuinely think this is the best-directed film of the year. And I know this because halfway through the film, I could smell it. Guadagnino did such a good job with his character building and world building that around the halfway point, it triggered something in me where I could smell the cologne of the characters. The film was so accurate and authentic that it began to come off the screen. And I know that sounds super stupid and pretentious or whatever. But I just tell it like it is. I’m a journalist. This is journalism, right? Yeah sure. I’m a journalist.

So yeah. The film has its problems. But when it hits it, it hits hard. There is a lot to love about this film, and I understand why it’s connecting well with a lot of people. Personally, where I liked it a lot, I don’t think it’s the quintessential film of 2017. But if everything I described sounds interesting to you, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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