Come As You Are

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Come As You Are
"People who are hard work in real life can still make entertaining - even sympathetic - characters in films, and Rosenmeyer strikes this balance very effectively."

Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer) is 24 but he still lives in this parents' house and gets tucked into bed every night by his mum. She also get him up in the morning, refusing to give him the ten minutes that he wants - but feels too awkward to explain directly - to deal with an erection. Now he wants to go on a trip, but he knows he's going to have to arrange it behind her back or she'll try to stop him. Her reasons for behaving like this stem from the fact that he has extensive paralysis, but that doesn't make it any less miserable.

Particularly awkward is the way that Scotty's mother's behaviour limits his sex life. To wit: he's still a virgin. Not knowing how his body would function sexually with another person, he lacks the confidence to pursue a relationship. When he hears about a brothel just over the Canadian border which caters specifically to disabled people, he becomes determined to go there. He needs to persuade others to go with him, though, so that they can split the cost of hiring accessible transport and a carer for the journey. This means blind friend Mo (Ravi Patel) and Matt (Hayden Szeto), a fellow wheelchair user whom he's only recently met. Neither is keen to begin with but Scotty is nothing if not determined - even if he hesitates when he finds out that their assistant is a woman.

The presence of Gabourey Sidibe in this role immediately suggests that she's going to be more than just a background character, and pretty soon there are hints of romance between her and Mo. Matt, being the younger and better looking one, doesn't have much difficulty attracting female attention. This leads Scotty to become increasingly frustrated as their journey progresses, and he's not the sort of person who keeps his frustrations to himself. Alongside his physical journey he has to undertake an emotional one, to realise that his lack of success with women isn't a result of him being disabled so much as it's a result of him being a dick.

People who are hard work in real life can still make entertaining - even sympathetic - characters in films, and Rosenmeyer strikes this balance very effectively. it's something that's all the more impressive given that he has only his face to work with, though as often one is left wondering why disabled actors weren't cast in these roles. The film is a remake of the Belgian Hasta La Vista and is thoroughly informed by real disabled people's experiences, which means it's full of sharp observations that able-bodied writers tend to miss - drawn out in such a way that the difficulties and the humour they create are accessible to everyone. The film is at its most entertaining in these moments, and when developing character-based humour. It's a shame that it lapses into cliché at times, especially in regard to Mo, rather than having the confidence to keep on doing its own thing.

This reliance on formula becomes especially problematic at the end, when we move into tragic inspiration territory. A film as smart as it has been hitherto ought to know better. Disappointing as it is, however, it doesn't detract too much from the overall experience of a film that really is trying to look at disability in a different way and is successfully finding the comedy and drama that these particular men's situations have to offer. It's also alert to the fact that everyone's experience of disability is different, and Scotty gets called out when insisting that his suffering is so much greater than the others' that they can't possibly imagine it - something it's equally easy to imagine him doing if he were able-bodied.

Though it touches only briefly on the prejudice that disabled people can encounter, this makes for a powerful scene which is sill more interesting because of the way it parallels this with the hate directed at Sidibe's character for being fat. It resists exoticising its characters; a discussion of what the men would do with their lives if they faced no limits is turned around when she too is invited to participate. This has the effect of opening up space for able-bodied viewers, putting the focus on shared experiences. It's also smart about how it handles issues around sex work, acknowledging that this is a complicated area, and all of its characters feel like human beings.

If, as the cliché goes, we set aside its difficulties and focus on what it can do, this is a witty and entertaining piece of work.

Reviewed on: 14 Mar 2019
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Three young men with disabilities hit the road with a jaded nurse driver to a brothel in Montreal catering to people with special needs.

Director: Richard Wong

Writer: Erik Linthorst

Starring: Janeane Garofalo, Hayden Szeto, Gabourey Sidibe, CS Lee, Ravi Patel, Grant Rosenmeyer

Year: 2019

Runtime: 106 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

SXSW 2019

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