GAY FILM REVIEWS BY MICHAEL D. KLEMM
Unrated, 90 minutes
A "mulligan" is a term used in golf for when a player gets a second chance. It is also the title of an uneven new film from director Chip Hale and screenwriter (and star) Charlie David. Mulligans features a middle-aged man who got married for the wrong reasons while still in high school, and faces the truth he has long buried deep inside when his college-aged son brings his best pal home to spend the summer.
|Chase (Dante's Cove's Charlie David) and Tyler (Derek Baynham) are best friends. Tyler doesn't know that Chase is gay. Chase is coming home with Tyler to stay with his family and to join him on a summer work program at the nearby golf course. Tyler's parents, Nathan and Stacey Davidson (Dan Payne and Queer As Folk's Thea Gill) welcome Chase with open arms. Nathan seems to really like Chase but also, at times, feels troubled around him. We know where this is going, don't we?|
|The father and son live for golf, and they hopelessly attempt to teach Chase the game. Stacey is sick of everyone always talking about golf in the house and tries to bond with their 8 year old daughter, Birdy, through the kid's summer activities. But Stacey is a bit uptight about sex and she pulls Birdy out of a swim class because another boy showed the girl his penis. Then she nixes her daughter's tennis lessons when Birdy starts to fixate on her teacher, Jenna. (It is strongly implied that Jenna might be a lesbian.) There is obvious tension in the house between the parents and when Nathan tries to initiate sex one night, Stacey asks "Now?"|
|Chase tires of Tyler and his girlfriend trying to fix him up with a cute Asian girl and clumsily comes out to his best friend. Tyler says he has no problem but you can tell that he is weirded out. He tells Chase that he loves him... but, of course, not that way. The best dialogue exchange in the film follows when Tyler asks if there is a more manly way they can express their love and Chase suggests "Go Steelers." Tyler is cool with that, but the two of them are sharing the guest house and gay panic kicks in over little things like nudity. When he decides to tell his father about Chase, he remarks that nothing has changed and then admits that everything has changed. Nathan offers his son good advice: do what you did yesterday; be his best friend.|
Tyler tries. Meanwhile, Nathan is looking at his thinning hair in the mirror and starting to watch Chase from afar as piano keys tinkle on the soundtrack. Earlier in the film, before his coming out, Chase had asked Nathan if it was strange getting hitched in high school and if he ever wondered if he married the wrong person. Nathan has apparently been asking himself that question for some time. Then the family goes away for a weekend to visit Grandma, and both Nathan and Chase stay behind. They hang out together but now that Nathan knows that Chase is gay - and Chase knows that Nathan knows he's gay - there are long and awkward silences between them. The inevitable happens like clockwork and Chase hides the sausage with his best friend's Dad.
|Drama, they say, needs conflict and this volatile situation offers ample opportunities. The volcano, however, is never allowed to fully erupt. The scenario is plausible and its central thesis worth exploring. Most of the opening exposition of Mulligans isn't bad. There are moments of great camaraderie amongst the leads, despite the sometimes-stilted dialogue, and the first half is a pretty solid and mostly enjoyable soap opera.|
|Unfortunately, the third act - like so many other queer indies - dies a slow and agonizing death. The last 15 minutes is a bundle of choppy scenes that are never allowed to play out for emotional resonance. These are tied together by really annoying New-Age Hallmark TV piano (and sometimes guitar) music that telegraphs the end of every scene, or runs on and on during endless montages of long, meaningful glances from each of the principals. Instead of a good dramatic payoff, each of these penultimate scenes offer a banal music cue instead. Which is a shame because the potential for explosive drama is squandered and every time you hear that tinkling piano again you want to scream. The climactic seduction scene is also ruined by the addition of one of several lame background songs that serve no purpose other than to grind the film to a halt.|
On the plus side, Mulligans is nicely photographed and the movie doesn't end the way I expected it to. The acting is mixed but some of this can be attributed to the lines they are forced to deliver. A little more background information would have helped too and the characters might not have seemed so one-dimensional. It's obvious, for example, why Nathan is attracted to Chase; he has been repressed and confused about his sexuality all his life. But what about Chase? Does he like older men? Is he responding to the need he feels coming from this very attractive 40-ish man, or is he just horny? He has barely any backstory; his friend, Tyler, has none! They service the plot but we know almost nothing about these people. There's a lot going on in David's script, and he gets an A for effort for bringing up so many relevant issues and themes, but the parts don't gel into a pleasing whole. Mulligans doesn't suck - not by a long shot - but, after a promising start, it winds up overstaying its welcome.
Thea Gill also