Totally F***ed Up
Strand Releasing // R // $24.99 // June 28, 2005
Review by Matt Langdon | posted August 10, 2005
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Totally F***ked Up is an aptly titled movie about alienated gay teenagers. Told in 15 chapter segments the film intercuts video interviews of gay teens [actors] with video and 16mm footage of the daily lives.

During the credit sequence a text title comes up that announcing that this is another 'homo movie from Gregg Araki'. This bit of humor is right in line with the iconoclastic attitude that Araki brought to most of his early movies. It also has a bleak streak that is tough to shake.

Andy (James Duval) is an Asian teenager who is bored with life, doesn't believe in love and isn't even convinced he is gay. But it's the only life he knows. His friends - three teen-age boys and two girls - all hang together. Each of them deal with the kinds of things that a lot of teens deal with; love, sex, boredom, drugs - only they have it a bit tougher.

One evening Andy meets a young guy name Ian. They begin to date and eventually sleep together. But then things go badly when Ian starts to sleep around with one of Andy's friends. Then another friend gets beaten up by some homophobes and things get bleaker.

This is not a happy-go-lucky gay teen film like Show Me Love or The Incredibly True Story of Two Girls in Love. If anything stands out about the film it is that Araki doesn't sentimentalize anything. He presents the characters as narrow minded, opinionated teens who suffer because of their alientation.

Stylistically, the film is rough and dark but edited in a dynamic way. It is shot cheap but it completely fits the bleak mood that Araki wants. He also captures Los Angeles in the early 90's with many shots at night with oddly empty streets and a lot of billboards dominating the skyline in the background of many shots.

He also - like Jean Luc Godard who's Masculine Feminine is an influence - breaks the film into fragmentary sections and uses text on the screen every so often. And, like Ranier Werner Fassbinder, Araki pulls no punches. The problem is he doesn't attempt to shine a light on the subject of gay teens any more than a filmmaker critical of gay teens might. He presents their world so tough that it's almost as if his hidden message is, 'stay straight - it's easier.'

Still, Araki has a self conscious side to his narrative with the often humorous texts that he drops in every so often that say things like 'To Live and Fry in L.A' or 'Insert Narrative Here.' He also takes time to skewer both Mel Gibson for his anti-homosexual reference in Braveheart to Tom Cruise who is rumored to be gay.

Anyway you look at it Araki has something serious to say about gay teens and he doesn't seem to care if he scares away a good portion of the audience to get it said.

The DVD is full frame 1.33:1 and looks okay. The video sections look like bad video - which they are. The film sections are grainy and often dark. Most of the footage is shot at night or indoors. This is not a film that was shot to look glossy or pretty. It's low budget and proud of it. However, it doesn't look bad and stylistically it has character.The transfer is good.

Audio is in Dolby Surround 5.1 and stereo 2.02. Both track sound average and there is nothing special about the surround sound. The film's soundtrack is mainly background music - and in fact the credits list a lot more songs than are in the movie. [They were cleared for the movie but cut out in editing]. Most of the film's audio is dialogue, which can be heard fairly well. Occasionally, the audio is unclear.

The only extra is a Commentary Track with director Gregg Araki and cast memebers Jimmy Duvall and Gilbert Luna. The track is really just a rambling rememberance by three friends. It's tough to identify them at first [and they don't identify themselves] but as they talk their voices become distinct and they call each other by first name. There is a lot of talk but not much is said. For the most part they talk about old times and through it all the nature of shooting a low budget feature comes through. There are also three Araki trailers; Doom Generation, Nowhere and Mysterious Skin.

Totally F***ed Up is a gay teen angst film that has such a hopeless side to it that it may be hard to watch for some but is all the more effective because it doesn't pull punches. Stylistically, it not necessarily 'realistic' but who cares? It's a film - not real life. Still, it does have a realism to it that some may find hard to shake. The film was made low budget and the DVD doesn't try to improve on that.

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