STRAIGHT UP (Premiering Feb. 28th in NYC and March 6th via Strand Releasing) is a millennial satire about one of the oddest rom-com couples to hit screens. The L.A.- based contemporary story has unusually bright, motormouth, twentysomething Todd (a fantastic, fearless James Sweeney, who also wrote/directed/produced) as an obsessive compulsive, phobic gay single doubting his sexuality and wondering if the right female twentysomething might be the solution to his chronic singlehood.
Enter witty, also super-smart Rory (Katie Findlay), a struggling actress Todd meets at the library. Their immediate back and forth banter (à la Roz Russell/Cary Grant supersonic His Girl Friday dialogue) suggests Todd and Rory may have something to build on, although each has insecurities and Todd seems so not hetero. Taking house-sitting jobs together, the two form a bond that is buttressed by a shared honesty, trust and endearing weird quirks. What ensues is a relationship that suggests all talk, no sex - not that a tippy toe (with Todd ever light in his shoes) isn’t taken -- and a serious, when not droll, exploration into the rarely asked question of why ruin a relationship with sex?
Straight Up reaffirms that a truly worthy no frills, small budget indie can indeed emerge from L.A. As such, it's also a primer for aspiring filmmakers everywhere on making a good feature with with chump change and small cast in everyday locations. But with narrative savvy, plenty of talent and a fresh idea well executed.
Avoiding vanity production potholes, this foray into the millennial dilemma of human connection and broader matters of sexuality/love/attraction/lust and, inevitably, dysphoria grips with tick-like tenacity.
Sweeney and Findlay are impeccable, seemingly born to their roles (maybe literally in Sweeney's case). The satellite characters (playing friends, shrink, parents) ably serve the pervasive and often subversive truths unleashed (e.g., bodily fluids — and solids —take a hit). Suspenseful throughout, the film sustains a teasing will-they-or-won’t they mystery. The likable leads, handsome production design and restraint regarding too many cultural references (in which the characters are fluent) ease the way for older viewers.
But might too many older viewers resist what could be perceived as a members-only millennial playground?