Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

“The Art of Being Straight” (+)

This film, which runs only 70 minutes, is about the lives of young men and women who travel to Los Angeles looking for work. Some pair off and others hang out together.  The young man most admired for his heterosexual activities is Jon (Jesse Rosen, who also wrote the script and directed the movie).  It turns out, Jon is sexually confused.  He is taken to bed by his boss, Paul (Johnny Ray Rodriguez), head of the advertising firm for which Jon works.  Jon finds the experience enjoyable.

Those looking for heavy homosexual or heterosexual sex won’t find it in this modest film, and viewers will be disappointed if they are seeking vicarious sex as onlookers.  However, those wanting to see a film dealing with the subject of homosexuality — there being so few in mainstream theaters — will appreciate this one, truncated and minimalist as it is.  “The Art of Being Straight” is playing at the Quad Cinema on West 13th Street in Manhattan.

“Away We Go” (-)

Over dinner, after seeing this film, my companions P.A. and P.B. said they had contemplated leaving the theater during the first 20 minutes. They eventually became interested in the unfolding story. I felt the same way at the beginning of the picture, but leaving was not an option since I had to report the facts to my readers. Although I occasionally appreciated a scene or a bit of dialogue, on the whole, I thought the entire movie was a pointless mess.

New York Times reviewer A.O. Scott gave the film a far better, although negative, review than it deserved.  He wrote, “The smug self-regard of this movie, directed by Sam Mendes from a script by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, takes a while to register, partly because Ms. Rudolph and Mr. Krasinski are appealing and unaffected performers and partly because the writing has some humor and charm.” Yet at the end of his review, Scott brilliantly wrote, “Does it sound as if I hate this movie? Don’t be silly. But don’t be fooled. This movie does not like you.”

The two leads, Burt (Jon Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph), are excellent in their portrayals of a young man thrilled he is to become a father and a woman feeling irritable and uncomfortable during her pregnancy.  The picture becomes a road flick when the unmarried couple decides to drive across the country to visit relatives and look for a place to live.  Among the cast of characters they visit is Lilly (Allison Janney) for whom Verona once worked. Lilly, who lives in Phoenix, is a loud, uncaring woman with respect to her own children. This is a very different role for Janney from the character she portrayed on “The West Wing” television show. Another person Verona and Burt visit is LN (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a disliked professor at a Madison, Wisconsin, university. 

(An aside. In real life, Maggie Gyllenhaal lives with her daughter and husband, Peter Sarsgaard, in the Village, where I live.  Further, before going to see this movie, I had lunch at Balthazar in Soho, and in walked her brother, Jake Gyllenhaal, with his lady friend, Reese Witherspoon.  This review is beginning to read like a Page Six item in the New York Post.)

Couples similarly situated may enjoy the relationship between Burt and Verona.  I kind of liked them but not enough to suffer all that accompanied them.  “Away We Go” is not a terrible movie, but for me, seeing it was a waste of time.