DROWN | REVIEW

What a fantastic year this has been at the Queer Screen Mardi Gras Film Festival – I still have about ten reviews to follow over the next week or two to build up my love of queer cinema and this amazing festival. So far we have reviews up for THE CIRCLE, JONGENS (AKA BOYS) and LILTING. Last night was a night and screening I have been looking forward to for a long time. DROWN has been promoted heavily, the trailer looks fantastic and screenings had been selling out for it, they even added encore screenings. Not only that, I was catching up with a friend, Josh, I had not seen in years and years, meeting his partner, Giles, drinking wine and we were all ready for an awesome night. We walked past Matthew Mithcam and his gorgeous entourage getting out of a limo, I had my highlight of the festival bumping into the most stunningly divine Jonas Smulders (from JONGENS), we took our seat, and then the experience went into decline. DROWN: overly hyped and a letdown, sadly. DROWN runs for 93mins and has an R18+ rating, purely because you see a penis.

 

DROWN MOVIE POSTER IMAGE
DROWN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY JASON KING

DROWN is the film version of the stage play written by Stephen Davis and directed by Dean Francis. Francis is best known for his B-Grade slaughterfest ROAD KILL from 2010 starring Xavier Samuels (future lover) and Sophie Lowe (AFTER THE DARK). I think Davis’s play would have been preferable to view, the story is a good one, it just didn’t direct well to screen for a couple of reasons I will discuss below.

This is a story set in the world of life-saving, it is bright, it is colourful, it has hot guys in it, it has gay love, it has homophobia, it has that Aussie sport competitiveness and it has a dark deep angry (possible) “roid-rage” closeted gay homophobe who just wants to rain on everyone’s parade. We were advised at the start that due to the story the play had seen a fair few walk-outs, mostly because it is quite violent and hateful. This sat in my mind and did not bode well.

 

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DROWN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | LEN (MATT LEVETT) WINNING A CARNIVAL

 

The story has a very intelligent and very deep arc. The protagonist, total fuckwit Len, (Matt Levett) is a seasoned Clubby who wins all the events at the surf carnivals but is really a wanker who loves the winning and looking hot. I got a definite “roid-rage” vibe off him. He is known as the winner and he is comfortable with his title. When new clubby Phil (Jack Matthews) comes along, he is it all, champion at carnivals but also a pro lifesaver seeing and saving lives before people die. Len doesn’t like this, call it an underlying jealousy, I think he wants to be Phil, better in every way, but also gay. With Len’s hatred for Phil on the increase due to him being the “second best” he latches onto the “gay” part of Phil and wants to destroy him while at the same time developing some fucked-up feelings for him. Len is on a spiral of destruction and not even his best friend, Meat (hilarious reason as to that nickname) can stop him from his path.

The exploration of this dark messed-up character is bloody impressive, I just wished they actually explored it more as opposed to making Lem out to be a bogan Romper Stomper kind of character, his menacing tones and anger came off as deluded and crazy, why would anyone, even a best friend hang out with that? This brought the possible deep dimensions of this character down to a two dimensional thug with daddy issues.

 

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DROWN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | LEN (MATT LEVETT) GETTING CLOSE TO PHIL (JACK MATTHEWS)

 

“I just find it hard to like a movie where the main character is a c**t.” Words I used to describe Len to a friend the day after the screening. I truly do, I know he has dark issues, but I just hated the guy. Does this mean Levett was good in his role? Perhaps. I think it was slightly overplayed and director Dean Francis went a bit too heavy handed with the character. And due to disliking the protagonist I started to look at the other characters. They are all gorgeous but all unlikable. First off, Phil (Jack Matthews), a winner, an ultimate athlete, has a loving partner and is catwalk model material but still feels he has to prove something to Len. After getting bashed the first time from Len why the hell would you then spend a night with him again? Did Phil have a sexual attraction? Or did he feel he could turn Len around and they could be best buddies at the club ? A huge flaw in this character. He already knew Len was a violent messed up animal, I would have hoped Phil was more intelligent than that.

Then my favourite character and actor from the movie, Meat (Harry Cook). Oddly, he is the only straight guy in the leads and funnily enough the only one that has recently come out on Twitter as a gay man. Good for him!! Loved his performance as the struggling best friend of Len. My one issue though that destroyed the character for me. When it went really bad, I thought Meat was man enough to say no, but like a puppy dog makes himself an accessory, he should have stood up to Len a lot earlier and even walked away if need be, no friend is worth that.

 

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DROWN | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | LEN (MATT LEVETT), MEAT (HARRY COOK) AND PHIL (JACK MATTHEWS) IN THE CLUB

 

The film is very slick with great production values and the opening shots in the water are beautiful, in fact every shot in the water is beautiful as is the Mardi Gras footage, I am gathering a different camera crew did those shots because the biggest letdown for me was the majority of the cinematography, it is so tightly shot with heads taking up the entire screen, that I thought the DOP had never heard the term “wide shot,” or “pan out.” It was incredibly distracting and not necessary. It could prove frustrating for anyone sitting in the front half of the cinema. I will add though that the film is incredibly lit, every scene is brilliant in this department from the beach scenes (day and night) and the club scenes were awesome.

The subject matter for this play/movie was ambitious and much deeper than your generic gay drama – for that I applaud it, with a few tweaks, wider shots and a more fleshed out lead character this movie could have been a masterpiece, sadly, for me though, it was not to be.

 

2 and a Half Pops

 

 

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