Monday, November 7, 2011

It's about the "Weekend"

The Sundance Selects film Weekend has to be one of the most honest portrayals of gay dating I’ve ever seen, and it deserves the positive reviews it has been getting.

Though people of all sexual orientations will relate to the themes of romance and courtship, Weekend shines in the way it offers a Queer Theory lens on the most primal aspect of gay life: hooking up and dating.

The premise is simple enough: Russell and Glen hook up on Friday night, but end up spending the weekend together, realizing that there’s something more than sexual chemistry between them.

Glen, of course, is leaving the country Sunday afternoon, so the magic has to happen fast.

It was disappointing that the film reinforced the stereotype that gay men use a lot of drugs, but with the short timeline, the alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine take the characters to a very vulnerable and honest place with each other, allowing for the film’s most compelling dialogue about gay relationships.

Weekend thrives on its simplicity, using conversations between the two archetypal characters to dissect the script gay courtships are supposed to follow as the two learn and grow from each other’s influence.

Russell is the classic closet-case, who’s out as gay, but not really to anyone. He pursues sexual liaisons, but is afraid of commitment because it means being out and having to own his identity.

 Instead, he interviews his partners about their own coming out experiences and tries to live vicariously through them in his journal. Glen, on the other hand, is out and proud, but has sworn off of relationships after being hurt by a cheating boyfriend.

 He also interviews his partners, forcing a tape recorder in their face in hopes of exposing queer sexuality through some sort of eventual art project.

Both are searching to understand the other’s archetype: Why is Russell so afraid and ashamed of his sexuality that he feels he has to hide it at all times? How can Glen be so comfortable with himself when he lets his sexuality define him?

The exploration of these questions reflects the internal homophobia that impacts all members of the LGBT community, complicating our relationships as we attempt to pretend they are no different than those of our heterosexual friends and neighbors.

Towards the end of Glen and Russell’s hurried courtship, the topic of marriage equality comes up. Tapping into his queer radicalism, Glen condemns the gay community for trying to embrace the heterosexual norm, suggesting “no one gets married for the benefits.”

 Russell’s yearning for true love betrays his inhibitions as he implores that maybe two people just want to declare their love in front of their friends because it’s meaningful to them. Ultimately, though, the movie makes a point greater than either side of the debate.

 Given how the variable of being gay in a homophobic society complicates same-sex relationships, marriage equality would create a venue in which gay men and lesbians could be celebrated both for their unique identities and for the normal lives they can nonetheless live.

Neither Glen nor Russell are ready to marry, but marriage would honor how both of them feel about their identities.

Weekend asks more questions than it answers, but it does so in a refreshingly unvarnished way. As public sentiment about the LGBT community changes, so too does the culture of the community itself, and this film creates a foundation for discussing the impact of those changes.

And despite the archetypal nature of their identities, Glen and Russell are unsensationally realized such that audience members will relate to them both. The film itself is about relationships, but its biggest offering might be an opportunity to better understand ourselves.

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