Double Feature: No Homo, Bro
Double features are a great way to watch movies. Well-selected double features complement each other like food and wine, bringing out hidden flavors or making you realize new aspects of something familiar. If you’re ever in need of a keenly paired set of movies to screen, check out our handy pre-packaged Double Features category– complete with theme breakdowns, aesthetic comparisons, and honest commentary about which movie should be the leading feature.
Are you tired of the cliché, black-and-white version of male sexuality that gets all the attention? Despite the fact that the world is becoming less straight and narrow, there is still this funny drive in movies and pop culture to portray “non-traditional” couples as still following traditional rules. If someone is gay, they are the textbook definition of gay. If they are interested in someone, they are interested in that person to pursue for monogamy. Everything’s too clean. There's not enough stickiness; Isn’t stickiness the best part of sex?
Here are two great movies that cover the oft-dismissed sticky male sexuality. Some characters are gay; some aren’t. Some are figuring it out; some aren’t. It’s the voyage – not the destination – that’s important, and these fellas are all about the voyage.
Disclaimer: I love the hell out of this movie. I love the three part structure showing vignettes of a character’s life, I loved that the whole thing looked like a pastel-colored waking dream. I love Naomie Harris, ever since the first moment I saw her in 28 Days Later (2002) – she was the only thing that could pull my eyes away from Cillian Murphy. I tell you all this to say that this will not be an unbiased piece.
Moonlight (2016) did something that I have been longing for and find very little of in American movies: sexual ambiguity that was still focused. There are examples of it for sure, Brokeback Mountain (2005) comes to mind, but many times characters who are seen as sexually ambigious are really just sexually all over the place. They’re partiers or they’re involved in some environment most of us don’t know, like Cristal Conners in Showgirls (1995). They’re not real people in the way Chiron, Kevin, and Juan are throughout Moonlight. Juan has a smaller role than the other two, and even in the short time he’s onscreen, he leaves us with so many questions that aren’t our business anyway but damn it, I wanna know!
For those who haven’t seen it, Moonlight follows a kid named Chiron from childhood to adulthood by focusing on three poignant sections of his life. In each vignette the conflict with his sexuality is present, though not always at the forefront. As a child, the focus is on his relationship with his drug addict mother and a mentor, whom he mets by chance, who fills in as a father figure. By the time he is a teen, his personal issues are beginning to boil over. His only respite is a small but life changing homosexual experience he shares with his friend Kevin, whose sexuality previously seemed entirely fluid, before they are separated.
After the teen section, the viewer is pretty unsure of who adult Chiron will grow up to be. The third section re-introduces us to Chiron, now called Black, as he is fresh out of prison. Black has become a stoic and removed, ruled entirely by an over compensation of masculinity. Yet he is clearly still at odds with his sexuality. The third part of the film revolves around Black and Kevin reconnecting later in life.
The movie doesn’t answer any questions but it begs plenty. Unlike Chiron's, Kevin is a character that seems to at ease with himself; he can balance between gay and straight, tough and soft. As a kid, he instructs Chiron on how to fight back when he needs to and as an adult, he coaxes out the softness that Black has abandoned. All in all, it’s an interesting cross-section of male sexuality outside of the pleasure-driven, heteronormative version of something like Entourage. Just reading the name makes me shudder.
Such fertile ground to tile when your movie’s name is Chuck & Buck (2000). Think of how many things rhyme with that! Or think of at least two that are probably going to be mentioned in a movie that’s kind of gay. But not really gay. Or maybe gay? One can never be sure.
That’s the great part about Chuck & Buck: as the last frame cuts to black, nothing is any clearer. And that doesn’t matter. You don’t get any neat answers, yet you’re happy and feel like everyone in the movie is happy too. That’s what matters. Not picking a clear label or pointing in one direction and know that’s where you’re headed; what matters is you’re happy.
Like Moonlight, Chuck & Buck features two childhood friends who reconnect (in much weirder ways than Moonlight) years later. Buck has been nursing a crush on Chuck ever since the two of them were kids and would experiment sexually with each other, as kids tend to do. When Buck’s mom dies, he inserts himself into Chuck’s life and not really to the delight of Chuck, who has a fiancee and a real-person job where he goes to an office and moves numbers around or some shit. Buck, having a serious issue with social norms, casually stalks Chuck and his fiancee in the oddest of ways before finally convincing Chuck to spend the night with him.
So this is a weird one. People who were delighted at the tropical colors and smooth surreal moments of Moonlight might be thrown by the uncomfortable and painful world that the characters of Chuck & Buck live in. Stick with it though and you’ll see a twisted character study that covers not only sexuality but what it means to be an adult – how growing out of childish behavior and growing up in general is a choice, not a natural progression.
Buck seems to be on one side of the spectrum when it comes to his orientation but he also doesn’t seem to be interested in anyone but Chuck. He’s Chuck-sexual, I suppose, though there is a glimmer towards the end that that might be changing. Chuck, meanwhile, is engaged to marry a woman but when the moment of truth comes, he doesn’t shy away. In fact, he’s into it, grabbing Buck with both hands and kissing him passionately. Again, humans are weird and sexuality is bizarre. Why should our movies be anything less?