Flexing with Monty

Breaking Glass Films,

John Albo

Trevor Goddard,
Rudi Davis,
Sally Kirkland,
Manny Gates,
Gwen Van Dam,
Mitch Hara

Unrated, 90 minutes

Narcissus On Steroids
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online, February 2010

Flexing With Monty, a film that is advertised as having been "14 years in the making," is quite possibly one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen. I can't remember the last time I had this many WTF moments in one film. O Fantasma maybe? Most of it is weird in a good way but I think the ending short circuited the logic center of my brain and the less that's said about its third act the better.

Written and directed by John Albo, Flexing With Monty is a story of sibling rivalry as if scripted by Tennessee Williams and David Lynch wih a touch of Clive Barker. Monty (Trevor Goddard) is the aggressively macho older brother who spends all of his time exercising. All of his time exercising. He is a gym teacher who feels that his students could use some quality time in the Marines or on a chain gang. When he isn't pumping iron, he admires himself in the mirror and has sex with blow-up dolls while a slideshow of his beefcake poses is projected over the bed. He is Narcissus on testosterone. Bertin (Rudi Davis) is 17, plays the piano and keeps a "rare exotic animal" - actually a masturbating pygmy - in a cage in his bedroom. (Don't ask.) Bertin enjoys teasing his egomaniac older brother. "You gotta get those pecs hard and firm," he says, mockingly, "So hard you can strike a match on them!"

They live together in a large warehouse in what almost appears to be a master / slave relationship. Monty barks orders and Bertin responds with a Heil Hitler salute. A huge industrial space is taken up by Monty's dungeon-like gym. It resembles H.R. Giger's drawings for Alien. He would need a space this big just to house his ego. His workout equipment includes a treadmill that looks like a cross between a hamster wheel and one of those round tumblers used in Bingo games. There are metal bars from which he swings like an ape when he isn't doing pull-ups. There is something almost subhuman about him. But this neanderthal also likes to be flattered; his body is beautiful and he knows it.

Monty is also a bigot of the first order and there is a very ugly scene in which he pretends he's a hustler and then beats up his john. He blames all the world's woes on "faggots and feminists" and complains about anything that goes against what he feels to be "the natural order of things." This includes taking pills that would sweeten his wind because farts are supposed to stink. I'm not sure how sex with blowup dolls fits into this philosophy but Monty isn't the brightest bulb on the planet. This is why so much of the first half is so funny; Monty is such a lunkhead that he almost becomes lovable. He seems to love his brother but, being such a control freak, he is angered when Bertin mentions getting his own place when he graduates high school. He's also evasive whenever Bertin asks about the mother he never met. Monty also shows a feminine side now and then; little things like wearing a showercap so his hair doesn't get wet when he showers. When Bertin cooks him a chicken pie in which he used all the gizzards, Monty remarks that it's good for the skin tone.
Flexing With Monty's plot isn't really gay, but it is one of the most homoerotic films I have ever seen. Monty's muscles are on display for most of the film's running length and his spandex shorts appear to be spray-painted on. There is a lot of horseplay between the brothers, some of it almost sexual. Monty tells Bertin that he watched him masturbate one night and then sat down on the bed and struggled against the urge to touch him. (What was that again about the natural order of things?) This isn't the only instance of implied incest; both have dreams about the grandmother who raised them. Bertin's involves a red scarf across her bared breasts while Monty dreams of the back rubs and full body massages she gave him. Phallic symbols abound. A banana dominates the frame when Bertin mixes Monty a protein shake.
As if the film wasn't strange enough already, the second half is propelled into another dimension when a nun rings their doorbell. The nun, played by Sally Kirkland, thinks Monty is Bertin's father. Her name is Lilith. That is also the name of a hooker who visits Monty and tells him the legend of Adam's first wife, Lilith Fair, and how she refused to obey her husband (Monty wigs out and calls her a feminist). The nun is clearly aroused by Monty. She notes that he is a nice speciman. "This bicep is pregnant with power," Monty boasts and strikes a pose. "And it has a soul. A fleshy soul. Would you like to squeeze my fleshy soul?"
Yes, this film is weird. But there are different degrees of weird. Films like Flexing With Monty are difficult to write about. I loved the first half but found its third act to be absolute nonsense. I recently watched the David Cronenberg adaptation of Burrough's Naked Lunch again. This is another film that is weirdness personified, but it makes sense (at least on a repeat viewing) until it gets to the conclusion. The ending is so wrong but I can't dismiss the rest of it just because of its last minutes. I feel that way about Flexing With Monty too. Great first hour but then... Yikes!! Discussing what happens would mean divulging a major plot twist and the campy last act would sound even more inane if I tried to describe it. This is profoundly disappointing because I love offbeat comedy and this one was so refreshingly different. Monty's first half was off the wall in a Harold and Maude or Withnail and I sort of way, and had all the makings of a new cult classic.

As mentioned earlier, Flexing With Monty took 14 years to make. They must have completed most of the principal photography when it was started in 1994 because the actors look the same throughout. Apparently funding kept running out; the film also endured the death of a producer and its star. Trevor Goddard, also known for roles in Mortal Kombat and TV's Jag, died before he got to see Monty, one of his earliest screen credits, released to the public. Flexing With Monty has its admirers; the DVD box includes rave quotes from Danny DeVito and Sean Penn. It's possible that others find its third movement funny but I'm trying to block it out of my mind and just remember how promising its first half was. You will either love or hate this film. But you won't say "been there done that."


Sally Kirkland also appears in:
Adam & Steve
Coffee Date