In “The Art of Being Straight”, the main character– a cute twentysomething guy named Jon (played by Jesse Rosen, who also wrote and directed the film)– develops a bad case of, shall we say, “the bisexual blues”.  New to California, Jon was known by his beer buddies as something of a college Casanova.  In one telling scene approximately halfway through the film, the audience gets a good taste of why Jon is such a hit with the females.  It’s not just his good looks.  He’s sensitive, shows the girls attention, and in the words of the Pointer Sisters, he’s a man with a “slow hand”.  Despite his success with women, our hero starts to question his sexuality in a big way after being successfully seduced and bedded by his new boss Paul (Johnny Ray Rodriguez), a confident (and maybe just a tad predatory…) older guy who believes that Jon is more of a “man’s man” than a ladies’ man.   Ambiguous feelings about his new same-sex experience aside (When one friend asks Jon if he liked it, he responds, “A little… I liked the attention!”), Jon goes back to Paul’s impressive arms again and again.  Yet, Jon still digs women too.  Eventually, the pressure of wondering if he’s gay or straight becomes too much. His job performance suffers, and social situations become increasingly tense: At a Halloween party, Jon becomes unnerved when a girl innocently asks him if he’s gay. (We get the hunch that he wouldn’t have been so bent outta shape by that inquiry if he didn’t just come back from his male lover’s house…)  Jon wants to talk about all this, but can’t seem to open up about his new man-to-man romance with his unyieldingly straight college buds: the kind of guys who love to throw around terms like “colon cowboy” and “fag-a-muffin” as much as a frisbee on a beach.

      While Jon is exploring his own sexual tastes, his ultra-sarcastic friend Maddy (Rachel Castillo), an avowed lesbian, starts to become intrigued by her strangely charismatic new neighbor Aaron (Pete Scherer),

 a “hipster” history teacher who is perpetually unshaven and still owns a turntable (For background music, he offers Maddy “Velvet or Coltraine?”).  Is the blonde, wild-eyed Maddy starting to develop an interest in guys?  Or is she just dissatisfied with her long-term girlfriend Anna and looking for some form of escape?

With his big blue saucer eyes, killer smile, and boy-next-door aura, the camera really loves Jesse Rosen’s Jon.  Many times during the film, that camera gets so close to its subject that we feel there’s no distance between the star and the audience. No doubt, it’s a challenge as an actor to believably play a character who’s at times a smoothly seductive ladies’ man, and at other times a vulnerable, ostensibly passive lover to an experienced, older gay man.  Rosen gets this challenge right.  It’s Rachel Castillo’s wise-cracking Maddy, however, who gets to deliver many of the best lines in the film.  “The Art of Being Straight” is earnest without ever being hokey, and has a definite homegrown vibe but never seems like a vanity project.  Unlike so many other independent films that explore sexuality in our so-called “post-gay” world, the film doesn’t force-feed its audience a heavy-handed message, or feel the need to offer a pseudo-scientific analysis of its characters’ sexual predilections. Gay?  Straight?  Bi?  Labels, labels, labels… If the creators of this movie do have a mission, it’s likely to convince its audience that, like the characters in this film, we need to do one thing for starts: Throw those labels out the window!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s