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Straight Up

Jun 30, 2020

A different kind of romcom from Netflix, and its good.

Straight Up

Grade: B+

Director: James Sweeney (Bushwick Beats)

Screenplay: Sweeney

Cast: Katie Findlay (Man Seeking Woman), Sweeney

Runtime: 1 h 35m

By: John DeSando

If you’re searching for an explanation of successful millennial romantic relationships, it might be characterized by bisexuality without sex. If you’re searching for an unconventional romantic comedy, that’s what writer/director/star James Sweeney offers in  the enjoyable Straight Up.

It’s a rom-com whose roots are firmly placed in the Howard Hawke’s world of His Girl Friday, where sex is a form of screwball comedy banter, brilliantly pop-cultured and offered by brainiac characters who want sex but accept words as more forgiving: “You called me.” “No, I didn’t.”  “Yes, you did.” “My butt dialed you.” “Well, I think your butt knows what your heart wants.” You might also think of the less biting, but still bright, Will & Grace.

Todd (Sweeney) and Rory (Katie Findlay) meet cute in a library and exchange super-charged dialogue titillating in its wit and emotionally fulfilling like good sex. He is OCD—his whole life is that analytical way-- arranging the books here making her think he’s a librarian. He house sits rather than create a home. It’s perhaps his OCD that keeps him from a satisfying sexuality, so preoccupied he is with deconstructing life that he misses its joys. He, however, knows he does not want to be alone his whole life.

The difference between Hawkes’ dialogue or, say Wes Anderson’s in The Grand Budapest Hotel, is that Straight Up relies on  machinegunned words, whereas the earlier screwball comedies come out almost gently from sweet origins in the head with smoother delivery (Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, for example).

Besides the smart dialogue, Straight Up offers, the main characters’ insistence otherwise, benign almost sexless love, which seems counterintuitive but ends up between the two principals an almost ideal state. Yet both characters long for love, a universal desire that lasts throughout the modern biracial and bisexual modes.

Straight Up lampoons the correctness of our century while it offers a sober commentary on fulfilling relationships that rely on mind over matter.

Listen up you uncertain millennials: It’s the mind that matters.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com.