Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
This film premiered nearly one year ago at the Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto. It premiered in the United States at the 43rd Frameline Film Festival last summer in San Francisco. It continued playing at film festivals throughout the fall of 2019, including being the opening selection at Newfest in New York City. It’s last screening was going to be qFLIX Philadelphia in March 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that event and its screenings were postponed until July. All those screenings had this film under the title “Sell By,” which is a more original title than the one this film now has. The original title is also more appropriate to some of the themes in the film. The title now is more generic and rather meaningless. Perhaps, the title is meant to be reflective of the ensemble comedy that this is, which is about three couples in Manhattan.
At the center is a gay couple, played by Scott Evans and Augustus Prew. Those two actors would play together again as a gay couple in a different production in the same year. Both appeared in Hulu’s Into the Dark. That series produces episodes that are feature length. Evans and Prew were in the December 2019 episode called “Midnight Kiss.” That episode was a horror film and it used that genre to attack the promiscuity in the gay community and among gay relationships, or the seeming lack of commitment and fidelity. By comparison, this film is embracing commitment and fidelity in the gay community, while exploring the issues that might arise in such long-term relationships. The other couples in this film might be seen as just comic relief, but, as also contrasts to how gay male couples either do or don’t behave differently.
Scott Evans (Grace and Frankie and One Life to Live) stars as Adam, a painter who creates canvases for someone else who takes credit for his work. He’s the equivalent of a ghostwriter for someone who wants to sell paintings. If one is familiar with the film Big Eyes (2014), Adam is the equivalent of Margaret Keane. He says though more notable painters like Henri Matisse and Rembrandt took credit for the work of others. Those artists lived hundreds of years ago. What happened to Margaret Keane was only 60 years ago, but rguably it was deemed unfair and sexist. It could also be seen as exploitative. Adam doesn’t really seemed exploited or bothered though, until his friends and partner make hay of it.
Despite his paintings making a lot of money under another person’s name, Adam doesn’t seem to be making much profit from it. He makes enough to be able to live comfortably in lower Manhattan, which is where the most expensive real estate is. He can only afford to do so because he lives with his romantic partner who apparently has quite a bit of wealth. Adam’s partner also has quite a bit of fame as well that stems from his huge online and social media following. This is unfortunately a source of tension between Adam and his partner, among other things, which threaten to pull them permanently apart.
Augustus Prew (The Morning Show and Special) co-stars as Marklin, the partner of Adam. They are celebrating their fifth anniversary as a couple. Yes, Marklin has more wealth and fame than Adam. This is mainly due to Marklin’s online following. Marklin in fact runs his own website, which caters to men’s fashion. He could be seen as a fashion blogger, a highly influential fashion blogger. From other things that he does online, he could also be seen as a social media influencer, much like Kendall Jenner or Kim Kardashian. Yet, he didn’t rise to fame due to a sex tape or reality show. It’s suggested that an article in The New Yorker magazine catapulted him.
It’s also suggested that Marklin’s career is becoming more encompassing and intruding on his personal time. Marklin might be putting his career over his relationship with Adam. Marklin might be taking Adam for granted. As a result, the two are not having sex as often or connecting physically as much anymore. This is perhaps a consequence of commitment and long-term relationships, that of taking things for granted and losing physical connections or physical connections becoming awkward. Yet, Adam also feels emasculated, not jealous but frustrated at his seeming invisibility. It could also be a power imbalance or privilege imbalance, which is echoed in the other relationships depicted here.
Michelle Buteau (Always Be My Maybe and Isn’t It Romantic) also co-stars as Cammy, one of the friends of Adam and Marklin. She’s the one who’s there when they celebrate their fifth anniversary. She’s also the comic relief for the most part in this film, as Buteau typically is or is at least a comic supplement. There is a power or privilege imbalance in her relationship with her boyfriend, Henry, played by Colin Donnell (Arrow and Chicago Med). One is seemingly more wealthy or successful than the other and that creates tension or frustration. Same goes for Haley, played by Zoe Chao (Downhill and Where’d You Go, Bernadette) who has a similar imbalance with Scott James, played by Christopher M. Gray (The Society and The Mist). Haley is friends with Adam and Marklin, but she’s mostly the best friend to Cammy. It’s shown that Haley has mommy issues, which manifest in both of the relationships we see with her.
The imbalances in these relationships are like scales where one side isn’t even with the other. One side is lower than the other and the other side is higher. There are a lot of people who can’t live with that imbalance. One side can feel like they’re inadequate, or one side can feel like they’re being taken advantage. In some cases, one side has to take steps to make the scales equal. In most of the cases here, the idea of “wanting more” continues to arise. Usually, the side that’s lower has to try to bring themselves up. It’s not about the side that’s higher trying to bring themselves down. Without getting too political, there can be societal reasons as to why the side that’s lower is lower and can’t bring themselves up naturally, but that’s not the case here. The people on the lower scale here are actually all white guys who aren’t held down by greater societal issues.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 32 mins.
Available on VOD, including iTunes and Amazon.
For more go to its website, https://www.sellbymovie.com/