Closet Monster | Movie Review
Back in 2012 I saw a very talented young actor in one of my favourite movies for that year, BLACKBIRD, at the time Connor Jessup was also starring in one of my favourite TV shows for the same year, Spielberg’s FALLING SKIES, his performance was nuanced and years ahead of his age, the movie tore through me and my words were “mark the name Connor Jessup in your diaries – he will one day be a household name,” ok he is not yet a household name but he has selected a superb role to play to further his skill and career as opposed to his fanbase. CLOSET MONSTER is screening as part of the upcoming Sydney Film Festival and the kind folks at Fortissimo Films sent me a link so I could watch it at home. CLOSET MONSTER is one of the best pieces of gay cinema in 2016, you can obtain tickets for SFF HERE, it is rated 18+ for the festival and runs for 90mins, I also believe Fortissimo will be releasing it to art-house cinemas or home entertainment later in the year.
BY JASON KING
CLOSET MONSTER is a powerful coming-of-age, gay coming-out movie that doesn’t embrace any stereotypes, it is shrouded in childhood trauma and parental scarring that effects the way in which the lead character can come out and how it effects his entire fabric. Oscar Madly, as an 8yr old (played by Jack Fulton) witnesses a young boy beaten to a pulp and badly injured, no one ever knew he witnessed the despicable hate crime but when Oscar asks his dad why it happened his father replies “because he was gay.” This childhood trauma is then ingrained in Oscar in the belief this was actually caused because he was gay, at the same time Oscar’s mum leaves him and his father as she can’t be with the father any longer, his mum ends up back on the scene but with a new man and new family and Oscar feels he does not belong so stays with his father who by this stage is a narrow-minded homophobic tool who really cares little for his son or for anything really, not the supporting character one would want when considering coming out.
Oscar’s world sees him become a student who wants nothing more than to be a special effects make-up artist who spends time working on his best friend, Gemma (Sofia Banzhaf), Gemma wants a lot more from Oscar than he can give and Oscar (by this stage played by Connor Jessup) is in a world of pain at his fear of coming out, a fear that rips through his insides and has some of his world not of reality, for example his 10yr old talking hamster, oddly voiced by Isabella Rossellini. Oscar is at an age where his sexual angst is at the fore and he cannot live as himself while bottling up this painful secret, and it is here he meets the incredibly free and gorgeous Wilder (Aliocha Schneider), a bi-sexual sexually free beauty that tears through Oscar’s world making him consider everything he is and what he wants to be, part of this being a desperation to leave, to be free from where he lives and what he has witnessed.
The opening scene of CLOSET MONSTER shows Oscar with his father, what I thought was a fun and loving dad, the witnessed trauma scene in total contrast is brutal. I was concerned how a loving father in this opening scene is moments later portrayed as a way less than spectacular father, I felt robbed of that early scene and that I liked the father, Peter Madly (Aaron Abrams), no doubt the same way a young Oscar felt, but I think they could have given some more development to Peter, explored why he was such a dick a bit more. In fact the entire family dynamic and how this split was so effecting I thought could have had some better development. First time feature director Stephen Dunn delivers a superb film that just loves Connor Jessup but the film is lacking in some finer nuance, that could have made it one of the best movies of the year, but ignore me, it won the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and has a slew of awards under its belt.
CLOSET MONSTER is a film that looks bloody brilliant, the cinematography from Bobby Shore is stunning with lots of contrasting colours and tones depending on the scenes, I would have loved to have seen this on a big screen and the soundtrack is one of the best of this year with 90s styled electro music from not one band I know haha. Music from Light Asylum, Austra, Sold Out, Tei Shi, Allie X and a few more has now found its way into my Soundcloud.
The acting is what makes CLOSET MONSTER stand out, it is all brilliant, can’t rave enough about all involved, especially both the Oscar Madly’s. Young Jack Fulton nailed the role and you all know now how much I love Connor Jessup, he is made for the camera, don’t hold it against him but he reminds me of a young Matt Damon but with larger range. Jessup plays Oscar so internally, a completely withdrawn and shy introvert scared of everything character, it was impressive to see the internal pain swell and eventually explode.
Dunn’s use of symbolism in the film is remarkable, firstly to get out of the way, while Isabella Rosselini’s Buffy (the 10yr old talking hamster) is a great quirky character in the movie her purpose was unexplored and a confusing addition to the plot flow, I put it down to the one thing Oscar loved, the one part of family he could maintain himself, the only living thing that would allow him to be himself, or was this really Oscar’s conscience talking to himself and being shown as a living creature? Further to this the symbolism with the rebar and masturbation was brilliant and the nuts and bolts had me internally cheering at its brilliance. And it finally hit me a few days after I viewed CLOSET MONSTER, the simple act of Oscar kicking his dad into a closet during their fight was subtle and full of meaning, a homophobe kicked into a closet by a gay coming out boy = masterpiece!
The kiss scene is one of the most beautiful scenes I have seen in years, much more romantic than Oscar’s bathroom sex scene, the romance and care in that kiss had me longing for a partner, to have someone to be this tender with me would be a superb thing. The ending to the movie is a brilliant climax followed by a beautiful wind down. Now if artist’s retreats were anything like this in real life though I would be an artist as of tomorrow, if you see the movie and are interested in the place used for the retreat it is actually part of Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland – I looked it up because I want to stay there – it is so beautiful.
Far from perfection in film-making but CLOSET MONSTER shows Dunn has the promise of Xavier Dolan and reaffirms my initial thoughts of Jessup, he will become of the best actors this generation.
Jason King is the owner and editor of Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 25yrs. He loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. All the social media links to the right and up will allow you to abuse, troll or stalk him :).
** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.