Plan B

Wolfe Video

Marco Berger

Manuel Vignau,
Lucas Ferraro,
Mercedes Quinteros,
Ana Lucia Antony
Damian Canduci

Unrated, 103 minutes

Boys Will Be Boys
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online November, 2010

Jim Morrison once sang that "people are strange" and there is probably nothing stranger or more complicated than human sexuality. People are straight, people are gay, people are bi. In Plan B, the debut film from Argentinean director Marco Berger, fluid sexuality becomes the impetus for a Shakespearean comedy of errors. Stephen Stills sang "love the one you're with" and that could be an apt title for this film.

Bruno, played by Manuel Vignau, has an unusual plan (B, to be exact) to get back the girlfriend who got away. Though he regrets it now, he left her because he was bored. In spite of this, Bruno still enjoys an odd relationship with his ex, Laura (Mercedes Quinteros). Apparently she harbors no hard feelings because they still meet to have sex now and then. But she treats this as a fuck buddy arrangement and has no intention of getting back with him. She has moved on to a photographer named Pablo (Lucas Ferraro). Bruno is jealous; he desperately wants Laura back. His plan to reclaim her hand? He has heard, through a mutual friend, that Pablo once confessed to doing it with another guy. Bruno will befriend Pablo and then seduce him. I'm still a little confused as to why this plan would result in Bruno getting Laura back but, before all is said and done, Bruno has a new best friend and he is starting to question his sexuality.

It's a little hard to describe the relationship that grows between these guys. Bruno's first actions may have been driven by revenge but something unforeseen happens instead. He pretends, at a party, that he is Pablo's boyfriend. A lady friend tells him to prove it by kissing him. Bruno does. If Bruno's aim was for the supposedly bisexual Pablo to kiss him back, it doesn't happen. Instead, Pablo is a good sport and goes along with the joke. Later, Bruno tells Pablo that he has to kiss another man for a photo shoot and asks if he can practice on him.

There's a weird dynamic going on that defies explanation. It goes beyond sexual tension. Tellingly, Bruno and Pablo meet in a gym; specifically, the locker room. They bond over a television show. Pablo complains that his new girlfriend won't let him watch it and the two guys view it, sitting together on Pablo's bed as if they were a pair of schoolchildren doing something naughty.

We all wish, at times, that we could be kids again, and these guys seem to be enjoying a second childhood together. Both men enjoy talking about when they were kids; especially when they discover that they both liked many of the same toys. Pablo hasn't told Laura about Bruno. He tells Bruno that he is like his "12 year old friend" and that he doesn't want to share him. Meanwhile, they might as well be schoolboys. Pablo frequently invites his new friend to spend the night. Soon they are sleeping together in the same bed. Aside from their heavy beards, they look like two boys enjoying a sleepover. As they become more comfortable with each other, they wear less and less clothes to bed. The camera, at crotch level, emphasizes their loose underwear and the packages inside. If they were 12 years old they would undoubtedly be masturbating together.

The film is a perpetual tease as we wonder if their bromance is ever going to make the jump to the next phase. That is the engine that drives the movie while providing its most abundant charms. While not knockdown funny, Plan B is an amusing film that is aiming for something higher than just a few easy laughs. Although the situation is vastly different, I was reminded of Humpday, another film abut two straight guys trying to get over prejudicial sexual hangups. It's hard to read Bruno and Pablo and so the film is anything but predictable. Bruno thinks Pablo has done it with a man before and apparently thinks that he will respond to his subtle - and not so subtle - attempts at seduction. Bruno, and the viewer, thinks that Pablo is cruising him at the gym, prior to their meeting in the locker room, but we learn later that there's another reason why Pablo was looking at him. As the story unfolds, it appears that Bruno actually is developing feelings towards Pablo when he suddenly blurts out a declaration of love. We're not sure at first if this is part of his revenge plot or if he really means it.

Director Berger takes his time letting his story develop. This is not a movie for the MTV Generation that typically demands the action to unfold at warp speed. This isn't a screwball comedy either, or a farce with constantly slamming doors. The filmmaker's desire to embrace the tortoise, rather than the hare, is exactly why this movie worked for me as well as it did. It's one part guerrilla filmmaking and one part intimate stage performance. Berger likes to use very long camera takes at important moments to tell his tale. I clocked one of these long shots at over seven minutes. This is an actor's film. Berger trusts his actors and they both deliver. Each of the scenes, in which they get closer together, is a small masterpiece of subtlety. It's all in the eyes, the body language and the awkward silences. (The scene where Bruno asks Pablo if he can practice kissing with him is a classic.) Letting these scenes play out in one long, unbroken take respects the performance by allowing it to unfold in real time.

The question of what makes a film cinematic has dogged critics for over a century. If the camera sits in one spot for too long, simply recording conversation, the movie is dismissed as being "filmed theatre." While this criticism is often a valid one, too many directors working today think that their audience will get bored if a shot runs longer than five seconds. Over the years, this reviewer has grown to embrace the expertly executed long take as the mark of a filmmaker being completely in control of his or her medium. I'm a longtime movie buff who appreciates flashy technique, but I also love the interaction between actors during a live stage performance and Plan B's finest scenes mix the best of both worlds into a very pleasing stew. Far from being "too talky," some of these scenes also do an excellent job exploiting silence. Gay male viewers will certainly enjoy the lengthy scenes in which the two men lay in bed in their underwear.

The approach is natural and real, and resonates on deep emotional levels. If there's any fault to the film it is the logic behind Bruno's revenge plan. Why would bedding Pablo enable Bruno to get the girl again? Unless his reasoning was that Laura would break up with Pablo if he was revealed to be gay. He also fails to consider the consequences if he is found out (he would lose two very dear friends). Whatever the reason, Bruno has obviously not thought it all through because Laura tells him that she doesn't consider their trysts to be cheating and she doesn't care if Pablo has someone on the side. Again, people are strange and there is some complicated sexual behavior going on here.

As noted earlier, their beautiful friendship blossoms from a shared joy over feeling 12 years old again. It's a bond centered around innocence and introducing sex into the equation will probably ruin everything. Does Bruno eventually get the guy or the girl? Or neither? Bruno learns something and grows during his journey and most viewers should find the ending believable and satisfying. Plan B might appeal more to the arthouse crowd than to the multiplex masses but that takes nothing away from its considerable charms.


More on Marco Berger:
Sexual Tension: Volatile