"It's worth taking the risk of being wrong..."
I've always hated the "fag hag" label. Not only ugly, it also includes the word "fag"--a term I loathe and never use, not even amongst my gay peeps. Louise hates it, too--but with virtually no straight friends, she's used to it: "I just get along with gay men. It's not a crime, is it?" Maybe that's why she's unlucky in love--and as the self-described "cautionary tale" Mr. Right begins, she fears that her most recent boyfriend may actually be gay. Lesson learned, shares Louise: "I never introduce my man to my gay friends again."
Except us, of course. There's best friend Alex (Luke de Woolfson), a young waiter for a catering company who's trying to get his big break in acting (while also dealing with his insecurity of being less educated); his boyfriend Harry (James Lance), a disillusioned reality TV producer; William (Rocky Marshall), an antiques specialist and single father to daughter Georgina (Maddie Planer); Lawrence (Leon Ockenden), a successful actor who draws the ire of Alex and the attention of William; Tom (writer/director David Morris), a successful artist well-versed in gay theory; and Larrs (Benjamin Hart), Tom's glorified prostitute. Then there's Paul (Jeremy Edwards), the latest in a long line of boyfriends to Louise (Georgia Zaris)--who can't help but think every man she touches is a homosexual.
The lives and interactions of these Londoners make up this ensemble drama. We slowly learn more about this group's fears and insecurities, and as the film progresses relationships are tested. From the start, no one seems happy--facing constant rejection at auditions, Alex grows increasingly depressed, feelings that Harry also faces at work ("Remind me again...why am I doing this?"). Lawrence is clearly interested in William, but the father is too scared to introduce another man into his daughter's life--especially following the death of her mother. And despite every indication that Tom is a sugar daddy, he refuses to see how poorly he's being treated by Larrs, a self-absorbed stud with expensive taste ("I don't run after people, they run after me...").
Despite a sometimes made-for-TV feel and a less-than-stellar performance from one of its leads, Mr. Right creeps up on you. If you can get past the slightly cheesy opening, you may be surprised at the film's heart and soul. It's also important to note that--despite what the movie pretends--this isn't truly an ensemble piece. It's really about three people: Harry, Alex and William. Everyone else mostly fades into the background: Tom and Larrs disappear for a large chunk of the film, as do Louise and Paul. Surprisingly, the story has almost nothing to do with Louise, who is practically forgotten in a film that initially sets her up as its centerpiece. That's too bad, because her scenes with Paul (played by the very charismatic Edwards, also underused) provide some light-hearted moments to the serious proceedings (he gets nervous being thrust into her gay-centric world).
And that's one of the problems the film has; with so many cool people, it needs to spend a little more time with all of them. The ending in particular hints at what could have been--a few developments with supporting characters hint at subplots that never had time to develop. One main character also fades toward the end, his power taken away by the script. It left me with a slightly unfulfilled, incomplete feeling, and the final shot/revelation was a bit disrespectful to one of the characters (and to us). Another drawback is the performance of de Woolfson, who can't quite pull off the more extreme scenes requiring Alex to be anger or sad. The character isn't that likable to begin with, which makes it a little hard to accept Harry's attraction (you never really quite buy their relationship).
But de Woolfson is decent when Alex stays between those emotions. But it's his co-stars that shine--especially Lance and Marshall. The two natural performers carry the film, their scenes packed with sincerity and emotion. Lance also interacts well with Lucy Jules, who plays his assistant Emma (a character I wish we saw more of). And Marshall, who starts off quiet and unassuming, blossoms as the film progresses--sparking to life at a memorable dinner party where conflicts arise. It's one of many powerful scenes the film has, and it's William's struggle to be a good father ("I'm sure I'm doing everything wrong") that gives Mr. Right its power. In a way I wish the film was all about him--there's more than enough material for his story, by far the strongest in the film. His screen time with his slightly off-kilter daughter steals the show, and even small scenes with minor characters (including William's talk with a mother on a park bench) have an impact.
There's another memorable moment when Alex has dinner with his family, and its impressive how such a believable dynamic is established so quickly. I love Alex's interaction with his brother (Rick Warden), especially the seemingly unimportant line "It's an olive...it's from foreign!" (a little touch that means so much). I was also struck by the words of Alex's blue collar father, who thinks his son is confusing being gay with wanting to be famous: "I don't know what the big deal is about being gay...why does it have to make gay people want to be actors and hairdressers and fashion designers? Why can't you have a normal job? Why can't you be a gay bus driver, like me?"
You also get the sense that Morris (who co-wrote with sister Jacqui) speaks through Tom, whose latest exhibit attempts to be a positive affirmation of what it means to be gay in the 21st century: "To me, gayness isn't just about sex, it's about everything." Mr. Right does itself a slight disservice with its title and marketing material--this isn't a cute dramedy that only focuses on "finding the one". It's a much more complex film that deals with independence, family, learning from mistakes, letting go, taking risks and taking control of your life. And even with its faults, the film leaves a lasting impression--and makes me wish I could spend more time with these people. Maybe not quite Mr. Right, but it's pretty close...
The disc sent by Wolfe for this review was a screener, so I'll hold out for an official disc before issuing a final word on its quality. An anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer was presented here; it was decent, although some scenes were dark and grainy, and didn't have as much detail. Others were a lot stronger, with some solid detail in close-ups (especially some faces/skin tones). Overall, no major problems to hinder a rental or purchase on this screener.
A 2.0 track gets the job done; dialogue was never a problem. Again, we'll wait for a final pressing before issuing a rating.
Only two trailers were included on this screener disc, but he final product apparently has a "featurette" as well.
While it feels a little incomplete, Mr. Right does a lot, um, right. This look at the lives of a group of (mostly gay) Londoners creeps up on you with power and emotion, especially through its two lead characters. While I wish a few more characters and subplots were given more attention and respect, the overall impact of this effort--which explores themes of independence, family, letting go and taking risks--is still positive and powerful. Based on the depth and power of the William arc alone, this is worth a look. I'll leave you with a Rent It recommendation for now until we get an official disc for review.