Frameline 2019: Straight Up

Katie Findlay and James Sweeney in Straight Up.

Straight Up is an outright character study with regards to one person dealing with their internalized homophobia while finding their soulmate.

The gist of the film is that Todd (James Sweeney) has found his soulmate in aspiring actress Rory (Katie Findlay).  Once these two meet, they’re very quick to get along with each other.  It’s mostly comfort for the sake of being intellectual.  Even though Todd is seeing therapist Dr. Larson (Tracie Thoms), he seems to come to conclusion that he’s might not be gay.  He says this because of his feelings when it comes to sex and dating.  Meeting Rory could very well end up being the best thing that happens for Todd.

The question that Todd and Rory must answer is if they can have a satisfying relationship without the sex.  Both of them make the decision to commit to the idea.  Whether this relationship is able to actually go anywhere–well, that’s a whole other question in its own right.  There’s an idea out there of how can you love someone when you don’t even love yourself.  Appropriately enough, Straight Up does indeed touch upon this subject.  Or as the two of them refer to it later on in the film, “the elephant in the room.”  Even if neither one are asexual, I do like the film’s attempt in depicting such a relationship.

James Sweeney’s script has some rather interesting ideas.  There’s one bit that’s quite timely considering how state legislators feel about a woman’s right to choose.  Obviously, the whole thing is unlikely to happen but let’s think about it for a moment.  Imagine a world in which all boys are forced to undergo a vasectomy.  They would be able to get it reversed at pregnancy clinics when they’ve found their soulmates.  This idea is probably unlikely to sit well with men especially men in power.

On the casting front, the decision to cast Randall Park as Todd’s father is perfect.  I say this because there’s a little bit of Randall Park with the way that Sweeney delivers his performance.  It’s also a bit of a stretch to see Park and Betsy Brandt portraying Sweeney’s on-camera parents, Wallace and Topanga.

This film does fall into familiar rom-com beats.  The script certainly has a way of making the material fresh.  What helps Straight Up feel so fresh is its depiction of asexuality.  Moreover, the 4:3 screen ratio lends the screwball comedy an old-school feeling.

CAST:  Katie Findlay, James Sweeney, Dana Drori, James Scully, with Tracie Thoms, Betsy Brandt, and Randall Park

Straight Up held its world premiere during Frameline 43, the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.