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Closet Monster is a unique, understated fable, buoyed by a strong performance from Connor Jessup.
All Critics (27)
| Top Critics (11)
| Fresh (21)
| Rotten (6)
One way to tell a promising director is by the acting in his or her film, and the performances in "Closet Monster" are solid all the way around, no matter how small the role.
Sort of a horror film, but not really. It's too funny to be categorized that way.
A film school thesis project that somehow found its way into general release.
Dunn plays around with perspective and style, but all the flash doesn't obscure the film's emotion and heart, which are deep and true.
It's nothing less than an emotional exorcism.
Closet Monster is most successful when it uses fable-like qualities to allow us to feel Oscar's emotions viscerally rather than narratively.
[An] absolutely stunning queer coming-of-age story.
With its surrealist treatment of gay identity and hothouse take on familial melodrama, Closet Monster inevitably feels like a precious carbon copy of Xavier Dolan's work.
Murder, masturbation, melancholy, molly-this is one overstuffed Canadian debut feature. Perhaps they should have cut the talking hamster.
Somehow that revolutionary, empowering message never got through to Dunn. His film seems sexually and psychologically arrested in the pathology that blocks coming out.
If you didn't think a hamster voiced by Isabella Rossellini could make you cry, think again.
A psychological thriller that has the ability to leave no one indifferent, something that makes one of the pearls to discover this year and a future cult title. [Full review in Spanish]
A beautiful and honest coming-of-age drama that stands out because of its conviction and uses a lot of fascinating symbolism to tackle familiar themes. Full review on filmotrope. com
MILK/TOAST - My Review of CLOSET MONSTER (2 1/2 Stars)
Canadian writer/director Stephen Dunn makes his feature directing debut with this messy, uneven, somewhat pretentious, but original, accomplished and well-acted story of a young gay man's coming of age in Newfoundland. The poster led me to believe we'd be offered an EDM version of PARTY MONSTER, with rave-filled, drug-fueled murder and mayhem and the title somewhat misleads. Instead, this is a self-serious, internal film with some very strange flights of fancy.
Connor Jessup (so great in AMERICAN CRIME and FALLING SKIES) plays Oscar, the only child of divorced parents, who aspires towards a career in special effects makeup and who begins to explore his feelings for other men. As a child, he witnessed a brutal hate crime against a gay man, his mother (Joanne Kelly) divorces his father (Aaron Abrams of HANNIBAL) and both incidents haunt him in present day. He keeps a female friend as his beard as he's not out to his parents but has a crush on a fellow hardware store employee. Oh, and did I mention he has a talking pet hamster named Buffy and is voiced by Isabella Rossellini?
Yeah, the story is all over the place and often overly intellectualized, which I've come to discover can be a Canadian sensibility. Our neighbors to the North can be VERY thoughtful! The humor here is wry, a little distancing, and one that makes your mouth curl upward instead of the type that actually induces loud chuckles. Whenever the film dipped into grotesque imagery, I sat up, waiting for it to go more off the rails, but it tends to veer back to a reserved manner. It's also a VERY white world our characters inhabit with some fairly low stakes. I wish Dunn had taken his cues from the great Canadian director, David Cronenberg, and followed through more on the horror aspects of his tale. Instead, most of the tension just isn't that huge a deal.
First of all, Oscar seems extremely resentful of his father, who is seen early on being the best Dad ever by imaginatively gifting his son with a dream before bedtime. Sure, he drinks too much and makes homophobic comments, but in the world of cinema Dads, he's not the worst we've ever seen. He and his son build one of the coolest treehouses ever and Oscar doesn't seem to have things too bad. Also, in 2016, being the product of divorce isn't the worst experience one could have, yet it's treated here as something Oscar just won't let go. He makes it seem as if his mother was abandoning him, yet sees her every two weeks. I don't mean to minimize the experience. I'm the product of divorce myself, but KRAMER VS. KRAMER ruled the box office and the Oscars in 1979 and would barely get greenlit as a Lifetime movie today. On the topic of low stakes, a fight with his father results in getting milk throw in his face. Not acid or urine or other questionable fluids. Milk. MILK! I thought to myself, "I hope poor Oscar can move past this trauma." The point is, witnesses of violence may sometimes turn violent themselves, and this film pulls its punches with that regard, resulting in a sometimes milky bland, dry as toast story.
All is not lost however, as Jessup is a remarkably confident actor. He carries himself so well in everything he does, filling his moments with astute concentration and a wonderful stillness. Never one to overact, Jessup truly understands the beauty in quietly thinking. Dunn deserves so much credit for getting a star-making performance out of this very talented actor. Cinematographer Bobby Shore keeps things intimately framed and provides a window into Oscar's world. The final scenes take place in a remote, gorgeous location, and the film earns its transporting qualities here. It makes me want to book a ticket to Newfoundland right away.
This film has its many bright spots, but there's an elephant in the room. Let's face it, Oscar is kind of a spoiled brat who could use a primer course in respecting his elders and treating customers at work as if they were human beings. The music, by Todor Kobakov and Maya Postepski blends traditional score with an 80's synth vibe, and while it's bold and electrifying at times, I couldn't help but think it was overcompensating for the humanistic touches sometimes missing from the screenplay. I didn't feel Oscar's struggle so much as I felt his need to complain. This isn't about a guy trying to come out of the closet, it's about a guy who can't see that he has a pretty cool life. Personally, I would have upped the body horror and allowed for psychotic breaks. It's a good movie but a tad too safe and polite for my tastes.
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