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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

entry arrow1:55 AM | An Accidental John Waters Freak Show, Without John Waters' Wit

Australian director Ed Aldridge’s Tan Lines [2007] is just the kind of ineptness in filmmaking that gets under your skin simply because this is just the type of film you want to root for but it does every single infuriating thing to shake your very faith in cinema. It is, in other words, a subtly hateful, confused mess of a film that does not know whether it wants to be a surfer film, an angst-ridden coming-of-age film, a gay love story, a social commentary on small lives barely hanging on, a psychedelic fantasia with strange animated sequences of Catholic saints talking, or a John Waters film filled with unbearable, out-of-place grotesques. Don’t take all that in. To understand this kind of confoundment is unworthy of any effort. And yet, at its core, Tan Lines is a simple story about a gangly teenage boy named Midget Hollows (played with deadpan coyness mingled with naivete by a winning Jack Baxter, who alas cannot save this film) who lives in a seaside Australian town and dreams of getting out, to “see the world and shit.” He has reasons to. He is poor and lives in a cramped apartment and shares the same bed with his mother (always seen sleeping, covered with a blanket, with only her long manicured nails to signal there’s life under that slothfulness). His best friend and the rest of their friends are content with an endless cycle of nothingness, surfing, longboarding, and partying. And then Cass, his best friend’s older brother, arrives — a gay boy who ran away from home four years ago. Midget soon finds himself attracted to Cass — but don’t let this development fool you into thinking this will be a film about self-discovery, forbidden love, growing up, or the triumph of friendship through acceptance. It is none of that. It meanders instead into strange anecdotes about freaky adults — there’s a sinister older woman with a penchant for formal tea parties complete with a session of cunnilingus for her niece; there’s a band of elderly couples playing a kind of drunken stripping game after midnight in public; there’s an older female duo out for regular morning exercise complete with conversations running the gamut of sexual hijinks… The whole film seems an indictment against adulthood, and yet it is not heroic of the young either: the older folk are crazy, but the young are aimless zombies with zero ambition, and if they’re not, they’re wont to indulge in manipulation or violence. And yet one continues to root for a semblance of logic, or humanity, in this film — and that may be because beholding Mr. Baxter in such a waste of a role can’t seem possible. But in the end, he is truly wasted, and one ultimately has to throw up one’s hands and proclaim the entire film unwatchable. The acting of the entire supporting cast is worse than horrendous, the script is written on soiled tissue paper, the editing is non-existent, the cinematography is atrocious, the direction is aimless. A similar story, minus the freak show, can be found in Jonah Markowitz’s Shelter [2007]. Forget this one, and find redemption in that one instead.

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