Moonlight and Carol of Oscar-seasons past paved the LGBT path for the cum-filled peachy delight that is Call Me By Your Name. But not everyone was as excited to bite into that decadent jizz fruit as I was.
Actor James Woods, whose IMDB page inaccurately calls him “strangely handsome,” (because honestly, he’s just strange) was highly offended at the age gap portrayed in the film. Seventeen-year-old Elio (Timothee Chamalet) is at his family home in Northern Italy where his father, a professor, studies Greco-Roman culture (which is also very gay), when his father’s newest graduate assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer) comes to town for the summer. Everyone in the damn villa knows this guy is a hottie with a body, and a brain to boot. With Oliver being around the age of twenty-four, the romance between Elio and Oliver left James Woods with questions of decency. Woods referred to the love story as “a pedophile a pederasty advocacy organization” that “quietly [chips] away the last barriers of decency” in a series of tweets. Hammer punched back with the tweet “didn’t you date a 19-year-old when you were 60?”
But the love story between Oliver and Elio is not pedophilic, and the uproar by James Woods doesn’t occur when the film is made by Woody Allen, an actual alleged pedophile, portraying a wider age gap and a heterosexual relationship (see the 17-year-old girl with 42-year-old man in Manhattan) for the same reason why the outrage toward Kevin Spacey’s alleged assault of then 14-year-old Kevin Rapp was much harsher than most criticism of other alleged straight abusers: homophobia is alive and well. That isn’t to say that Kevin Spacey’s actions weren’t pedophilia, of course, because Spacey was in a position of power, and Rapp was prepubescent and not consensual.
Homophobia intersected with age disparity is a tricky topic, and one that has several layers on it once combined with historic examination of most queer criticism. Not to mention that finding similarly-oriented individuals within the same age range is difficult in the queer community, because coming out is a long and scrutinized process, especially in 1983, the year the film takes place. Gay men have historically been discredited as “dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with the children,” and 70 percent of respondents in a national survey in 1970 by UC Davis agreed. But when I was at the red-carpet premier for Call Me By Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino didn’t care for Woods’ comments. He cared about the power of the love story told in the film, a story which should not be discredited by years of prejudice toward the LGBT community. The story is a masterful exposure, in the soft colors of the warm Italian summer, and the vulnerability of two young men discovering themselves. Woods’ misconceptions regarding the romance likely stems from the fact that he is judging a film and a romance which he has yet to see or experience in any way, Guadagnino suggested at the red carpet premier.
Elio and Oliver have quite a bit in common. Elio is a scholar, spends his days transcribing sheet music and studying sounds for fun, while Oliver deciphers Roman literature and statues and words of which he doesn’t believe the literature’s original writer even knows the meaning. They both are wickedly smart, on the same level of intellectual maturity, yet shyly hiding their true wit from each other at times in fear of saying the right thing. All Elio wants is for Oliver’s approval, and all Oliver wants is a sign that he can move forward, slowly getting to know Elio.
The relationship of these two young men starts slowly, as most romances do when sexuality is in question. Small touches on the shoulder, massaging a strained muscle. Going for a swim together, but wading yards from each other. Watching the other’s lips purse loosely around the released smoke of a cigarette he claims not to smoke. They run in the grass together, ride bikes alongside each other, race to encircled monuments, and when they make confessions, they take the opposite path around statues, giving each other the anxiety of not seeing reaction’s to long-repressed truths. The freedom of expression that Elio and Oliver have is expressed in color, from the lush green grasses and blue waters when they are alone to steal tender touches, to the pale ancient Greek hues on the gray scale in the 17th century villa where their relationship is as muted as the ancient paints. As feelings develop, it becomes difficult for the audience to sit in our seats and not help move Elio and Oliver closer together. But they had to be careful, because these young men were used to constantly absorbing knowledge, and this was the first time that they both, eventually, might let emotion take the reins.
The story, as a good love story should, has heartbreak. Elio goes from sticking his face in Oliver’s swim trunks, to having sex with himself, to having ejaculating too soon during his first time with a girl, then with a peach, then feeling the curves of another man’s body for the first time. On this roller coaster, he, as anyone else would, feels lost. He doesn’t know if there’s something wrong with him. And when the only person who makes him feel right is only there for the summer, it seems that the fullness of his heart has an expiration date.
Through stunning performances, brilliant colors, and Sufjan Stevens having the audacity to come in with gentle lyrics that hold the same calculated beginning and emotional fallout that Elio and Oliver share, this film turned my popcorn to soggy puffs of heartache and disintegrated hope.
This LGBT love story only has one flaw, and spoiler alert, it’s that Armie Hammer should have eaten that peach, then maybe it would have had a happier ending, so I’m deducted .25 off of an otherwise perfect score!
9.75 cum filled peaches out of 10 missing ‘lil penises on homoerotic Roman statues!