September 24, 2012

MOVIES: Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs, 2012)

Every year, there's a movie or two that escapes from the gay film festival circuit to get a limited release in the art-house circuit. Occasionally, these movies are worth seeing; last year's Weekend, for instance, was marvelous, and you should seek it out if you haven't seen it.

But more often, those escaped films are like this year's example, Keep the Lights On, which has very little to say and can't find an interesting way to say it. If you are surprised to learn that addiction is an awful thing, or that it is difficult to maintain a meaningful romantic relationship with a crackhead, you may find the movie more insightful than I did; if none of that comes as news to you, you're in for a long 100 minutes.

Thure Lindhardt gives the closest thing the movie has to a decent performance as Erik, a documentary filmmaker (we get no idea how he actually supports himself) who falls for handsome young lawyer Paul (Zachary Booth). It's clear from the beginning of the relationship that Paul's drug use and drinking are going to be an issue, but as Paul spirals deeper into addiction, with repeated visits to rehab clinics that he never takes very seriously, Erik can't bring himself cut his losses and ditch the guy.

I mean, sure, addiction is a disease and addicts are not entirely responsible for their behavior, but still, those around them aren't responsible for it, either, and it's neither kind nor realistic to expect them to put their own lives on hold waiting for the addict to find the strength he needs to get better.

So what we're left with is a story about a guy who's sick and shows no interest in even trying to get better, and a guy who's perfectly willing to martyr himself and ruin his own life because of someone else's illness, which means that we've got no one sympathetic enough to care about. I don't necessarily need to like the protagonist of a movie, but unlikable, stupid, and naively self-sacrificing is more than I can put up with.

Don't bother. Just go to Netflix and stream Weekend instead.

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