Silver Screen Spuds: Call Me by Your Name

I'm back again with a potato-themed movie review. You didn't ask for it, but you're still welcome. What's my next venture, you ask? Why, the food-centric, picturesque Italian countryside movie of the winter; Call Me by Your Name! But before we dive deep, I want to acknowledge the controversy involving Timothée Chalamet and his previous work with Woody Allen. I am the first person to say that Woody Allen is pure garbage, and anyone who willingly works with him at this point is gross. However, I think Chalamet's statement and promise to donate his salary from the movie to charity is a significant step towards how other actor's in his position should deal with their involvement (cough Scarlett Johansson cough). I also think that movies focused on gay characters are incredibly valuable and necessary. Obviously that does not excuse the flaws in this movie, or the actions of the actors within the movie, but there will always be actors who have worked with abusers (until we kick them all out of Hollywood fingers crossed), and while we cannot ignore their previous involvements, it would take some serious doing to boycott every movie that isn't in some way problematic (and if you're going to do that, I applaud and respect you endlessly).

ALRIGHT, now let's get going. First and foremost, this movie is sexy. And not just because every single actor in the movie is hot as hell, but because the dialogue and actions of the characters are subtle in their sexuality. The unspoken tension throughout the movie, the ways that physical intimacy is portrayed, and the realistic conversations that happen really drew me in and, let's be honest, made me fall in love. Genuine, honest portrayals of love are my shit and this movie hit the nail on the head. This movie is the type that makes you think about your first or truest love and reminds you of that time you were cuddling with them and you started crying because you loved them so much (what, just me? Okay, that's cool, you still know what I mean). The realistic chemistry between Chalamet and Armie Hammer was palpable and truly beautiful. It was playful, it was sexy, it was flawed, it was honest, and it made me fall in love with both Oliver and Elio, and their relationship itself.

The other part of this movie that absolutely broke me was Elio's parents. As I said, the thing Call Me by Your Name does best is subtlety, and the layers of unspoken truths within it. This movie does not think its audience is dumb; the writer and director trust us to understand what is left unsaid. The highlight of this aspect of the movie, for me, was Elio's mother and her silent support and understanding of him and Oliver's relationship. She's the one who encourages the to take the trip together, she's the one who basically tells Elio that he can pursue Oliver, but in the end when Elio asks his father if she knew, Mr. Perlman says no, even though one of the final scenes includes a knowing look between him and Annella after their phone conversation with Oliver! What a sneaky mom!! What a subtle portrayal of parental respect! Elio needed his space (at least in some way) and his mom knew that and gave it to him!! And again, this practice of respect was completely unspoken. Annella doesn't look at her husband and say, "Wow, I can't believe I knew about this relationship the whole time but never said anything!!" Elio doesn't confront his mom or ask if she knew; there isn't some dramatic reveal that his father lied to him because the audience doesn't need that and they know we can figure it out ourselves.

Okay, now let's take flaws. First and foremost, neither Timothée Chalamet nor Armie Hammer are actually gay, which I'm not the biggest fan of. Secondly, the age difference between Elio and Oliver is a little skeevy. I didn't think the 7 year age gap was necessary, or even really useful in the movie. Why was Elio 17 and not 20? Why did Oliver have to be a grad student, and not an undergrad on a study abroad? Many queer people have taken up issue with Call Me by Your Name, and for incredibly valid reasons. Too many queer narratives have to end in tragedy in order for people to enjoy it; sexual manipulation within queer cinema is near-constant; representation of queer relationships is almost always ambiguous and usually problematic. And look, I'll say it - nobody's perfect. I watched this movie and really enjoyed it. I went in with hesitations and left without really thinking about those initial thoughts I had. And then I engaged with a queer friend online who has a lot of issues with this movie and frankly thoroughly dislikes it. I think as much as I can sit here and tell you that I enjoyed this movie, and forgave a lot of what is problematic about it in the moment, they can sit here and tell you how much they hate it because they can't ignore what is problematic. I have a lot of privilege, even as a queer person - I am white, cis, in a heterosexual relationship (i.e. straight-passing). I am only visible as queer when I want to be. So my perspective of this movie is mine, and is influenced by all of those factors. There are so many people who do not have the same privileges that I do. I am not a gay man - I do not know how this movie would affect me if I was a gay man. I also haven't had a relationship with an older person before - there are countless people who have. So as much as I love having this platform, and being able to review movies, please please please take my opinions with a grain of salt. I am not the authority on queer cinema, and I am definitely not the authority on gay male relationships and their representation. Read other articles! Read articles by other queer people! Read articles by gay men! And understand that I could look back on this movie and this review and hate myself for enjoying it; that my ability to 'forgive' or 'ignore' its faults comes from a place of privilege, and is not the right thing to do. Here is an article about Call Me by Your Name by Garrett Schlichte, here is one by Miz Cracker, a drag queen, and here by Richard Lawson. Please do your own research, and understand that this movie needs to be seen and reviewed from multiple viewpoints.

Okay, so what kind of potato dish could this movie be? Au Gratin Potatoes? That's French! Gnocchi? Too on brand!! No, no, no; this movie is a customizable, delicious, made-to-order baked potato. It transcends generations, you can add what you want to, you can take away any range of emotional understanding from it, the possibilities are endless and comforting and delicious (and sexy if you're into that kind of thing). 

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