Is It Just Me?

TLA Releasing

J.C. Calciano

Nicholas Downs,
David Loren,
Adam Huss,
Michelle Laurent
Bob Rumnock
Bruce Gray

Unrated, 93 minutes

Mistaken Identities
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online November, 2010

Mistaken identities and romantic comedies often go hand in hand. Shakespeare excelled at writing such farces and Is It Just Me?, a new film written and directed by J.C. Calciano, is the latest in a long and noble tradition.

Blaine (Nicholas Downs) is a young writer for a gay publication called USA TOGAY. "Being average in a world of physical perfection is the worst kind of gay Purgatory" are the opening words from his latest column. Blaine is handsome but average, and painfully aware that he's not a hunk. Shy and introverted, he has trouble meeting men, let alone finding Mr. Right. His roommate, Cameron (Adam Huss), IS a hunk who works as a go-go dancer at a gay club. Cameron has no problem meeting men and Blaine is used to hearing the sounds of hot, sweaty sex coming from his roommate's bedroom.

Everything changes when Blaine meets Xander in an online chatroom. Xander (David Loren) has recently moved to Los Angeles from Texas. He thinks all the men he has met in LA are shallow and he, like Blaine, also wants to find someone special. Blaine and Xander click, establishing an intense relationship first in a chatroom and then over the phone. They have much in common and Blaine is thrilled that he may have finally found "the one." Then disaster strikes. After speaking on the phone for hours, they agree to exchange photos. Blaine doesn't realize that Cameron was using his computer earlier, without his permission, and never logged out of the same chatroom. Before Blaine can hit the cancel button, he realizes that he has just sent Cameron's bare-chested, pecs-popping picture to Xander. What will his new love say when he finds out that Blaine looks nothing like the picture that he sent?

This is where Blaine goes for broke and really screws up. He asks Cameron to accompany him when he meets Xander in person for the first time. When he casually remarks that Xander wouldn't be interested in a guy like Cameron, his gym rat roommate "smells a challenge" and makes a bet that Xander would rather go for his looks than Blaine's brains. The timing, naturally, goes wrong when they all meet and Xander leaves, while Blaine is off getting coffee, still thinking that Cameron is Blaine. For reasons that defy explanation, (except that Blaine has taken being a dork to a whole new level), the deception continues until things go too far and Blaine is terrified to tell Xander the truth. Will these two young men, who clearly are made for each other, ever get together?

The film's first half hour is charming beyond words. The courtship over the phone between these guys is sweet without being too saccharine, even when Xander serenades Blaine with his acoustic guitar. A burned down candle marks how long they talk on the phone. Their shy phone sex interlude is rather hot. We don't hear what they are saying; unobtrusive music and deep breathing dominates the soundtrack and there are a lot of close-ups of hands, zippers, underpants and rapturous, contented smiles.

The interplay between Blaine, Xander and Cameron is interesting as the comedy of errors escalates. Xander becomes friendly with Blaine, and even begins to discover that they have a lot in common - but he still thinks that Cameron is really Blaine. Meanwhile Blaine, who needs a good smack upside the head, is unable to find the right moment to tell Xander the truth. One night, Blaine is wearing headphones in his bedroom and doesn't hear Xander come home with Cameron. When he does take off the headphones, he hears a common sound - what he thinks is Cameron fucking his latest trick. What he's really hearing is a drunk Xander vomiting in the bathroom and Cameron helping him. When Blaine finds Xander in their kitchen the following morning, he assumes that Cameron seduced his man the night before.

It's almost an unwritten rule that romantic comedies end happily, and Is It Just Me? is no exception. But there are a lot of comical roadblocks until we get there. This "comedy of errors" is funny and sweet. This is an enjoyable film but it does require a little suspension of belief on the viewer's part. It has been clearly established that Blaine is shy and has a propensity for messing things up, but can anybody be as stupid as this guy? To be honest, Xander doesnŐt seem too bright either - he should have realized immediately that Cameron is not the main he spent two nights talking with on the phone. As for Blaine, his family rejected him when he came out and this, no doubt, has much to do with his inferiority complex and why he thinks everyone will reject him. Blaine is getting it from all sides too; his editor wants a fluffier column with less angst. An early secene sums up Blaine's luck, or lack thereof. While typing on his laptop in a coffee shop, a very handsome man asks him if the armchair next to him is taken. Thinking that he wants to join him, Blaine invites him to sit down - and the man picks up the chair and carries it across the room to sit with his date.

Is It Just Me? features an attractive and likable cast, and all the leads deliver. The same can be said for most of the supporting cast, don't let the counter guy in the coffee shop scare you away from the rest of the film. Bruce Gray delivers a delightful performance as Ernie, the old queen from whom Xander rents a room. Gray was the old man whom Emmet enjoyed a brief affair with in Queer As Folk's second season. He's a bit annoying at first when he keeps scolding his dog, Donatello, for "making a poo" but he turns into a great character. "Decency forbids" his saying any more about an encounter with Tennessee Williams, and he cries at the end of a bad slasher movie and says it was "like Sweeney Todd but without the music." When Xander asks him for advice about dating writers, Ernie tells him that writers are prophetic when they're writing and pathetic when they're with people.

Aside from some occasionally sappy background music, and a happy ending that was too abrupt and way too corny for my tastes, I found the film to be a lot of fun. I suppose that part of the fun was the thing that frustrated me the most: Blaine's cowardice and unwillingness to just go for it. Then again, I reacted the same way to Anthony Hopkins' rectitude in The Remains Of The Day and that, of course, was how you were supposed to feel. Is It Just Me? doesn't break any new ground, but it's a cute movie ala Trick or Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss. It's slickly directed, nicely filmed and acted. There's no explicit sex, like a few other films I've written about recently, but there is plenty of the requisite eye candy. Despite one of the main characters bening a musician, it isn't padded out with unnecessary and irritating pop songs written by one of the filmmaker's relatives and that goes a long way towards making this reviewer happy.


Bruce Gray also appears in:
Queer As Folk