With accolades raining down from the industry gods, director Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, based on Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel, has Hollywood falling head over heels.
It appears to be a love affair that will span the generations.
Here’s the pitch: place attractive people in a romantic setting and nature will take its course. In the film, when actor Armie Hammer’s character, an older man named Oliver, coyly admits to his young lover, Elio, played masterfully by Timothee Chalamet, that he was indeed putting the feelers out with that lingering touch, the film lost me.
Until then, I was on the fence.
Oliver’s purposeful, initial testing of the waters brought obvious discomfort to the young Elio and in the end it seemed to celebrate the predatory intent that has wracked Hollywood in the last year.
What was happening here amongst all the sleepy scenic transitions? Were we witnessing a young man, Elio, 17, in the awkward summer of his sexual awakening? On screen, he’s getting it on with himself, a local girl, a piece of fruit, and then the random dude who comes for a visit.
Or is there more to this story? What first appeared to be attempts by Oliver–who doesn’t look a day under 32, but is supposed to be 24 in the film–to shy away from the advances of a conflicted boy (who, although 17, looks about 15) revealed themselves to be crafty game-playing maneuvers.
There’s a dance floor mating ritual with a hot-for-it lady used as foreplay. And the older man’s tactic of shunning the boy who has a wild crush on you in order to reel him in.
Ewwww. Ewwwwww. Ewwwwwwww.
Not to mention, in my opinion, one of the most vile moments ever captured on film unfolding as the desire and ultimate attempt made by Oliver to taste the forbidden fruit of Elio’s shame. Utter depravity. The only characters more troubling than the Adonis-like predator, are Elio’s parents, specifically, the narcissistic father character, Mr. Pearlman, played by Michael Stuhlbarg.
In the film, Elio is a puppet on his father’s tautly pulled strings. Oliver is his father’s research assistant. The father appears to have glaring, unresolved sexual issues and vicariously lives out his unfulfilled sexual fantasies through his child.
In one scene, he shoves his son to the the backseat of his car so his hot male assistant can ride shotgun. He invites his son to come to an excavation site, but doesn’t speak to him. A gay couple gifts Elio a shirt that his father demands he wears lest he be seen as homophobic.
I would not at all be surprised to learn if there was a peephole in Elio’s bedroom wall. He sends his son on holiday with the handsome and enlightened, muscular Oliver. He congratulates the same man with an elated, “Mazel Tov” when the man so callously and nonchalantly breaks his child’s heart.
This does not leave Mrs. Pearlman, played by Amira Casar, off the hook. I’m sorry, but what sort of mother sits passively by through such ongoing, ever so subtle, paternal manipulations, only to be envied by the likes of Svengali, being played out under her own roof?
Maybe a woman who is under the pressure of the same thumb. Or possibly, and more in line with the gut feeling I have about this film, a woman who wants to be? I cannot be the only one who picked up on the slightly out-of-character, overly zealous delight she found in announcing that the next research assistant to arrive would be female.
The most fascinating moment of the entire viewing experience comes in the last shot, as the credits roll. In a touching final scene the camera never leaves Elio’s face as his oblivious parents ready the dinner table. We witness, up close, the loss of innocence.
Not one word is spoken but the hardness that arrives and settles in his expression reveals the crushing truth that words cannot. Elio was unprotected by those who were charged with his protection. Not only that, but him walking this path was, if not a set up, a dream come true for the adults in his life. Where will this road lead? Fans of the novel and the teased future installments know.
The film is perfect for those blinded by their own insatiable and unquenchable narcissism, the same tribe of folks screaming, “Times Up!” at the newly ousted members of their inner circle, and clutching onto their roles as gatekeepers for others.
In regards to the question of age difference, Armie Hammer offers this justification, “ I do feel fortunate that the way our relationship in the movie unfurls has very little to do with power dynamics. If anything, it really is Elio, the younger one, who has to be the one who is old enough to say, ‘Oliver, this is how I feel. This is what I’m going through.’ And so it’s – there’s less of that power dynamic in our relationship, which I’m thrilled about because it’s just two people consensually falling in love with each other.”
It’s awfully convenient for Hammer, that this story takes place over a summer in Italy. Perhaps he is unaware he is sending a message to those still desperately hindered by the 18-year-old Age of Consent Law that stifles his Los Angeles community. Get a passport. Sex tourism rocks, right Armie?
The pushback against Kevin Spacey, accused of, among other things, sexual impropriety with a 14-year-old boy, seems lightyears away for fans of Call Me By Your Name.
Interestingly, loudly, and proudly, age of consent laws in Italy are being used to dismiss Call Me By Your Name critics. Louis CK’s, I Love You Daddy was on track to be embraced by Hollywood, just like Woody Allen’s Manhattan, even though both films glorified sexual relations between 17- year- old girls and much older men (currently legal in New York, where both films were set).
How the frightened elites of Hollywood can drone on all day about sexual protectionism, yet embrace Call Me By Your Name, is the height of their daft hypocrisy.
Could it be Hollywood’s PR push for women’s rights has left a much more vulnerable class of people, children, in the dust? After all, why is the accused Bryan Singer still working?
Call Me By Your Name is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Oscars.
As we all know, many women in the female-led hysteria of the #MeToo movement were perfectly willing to play along before Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Brett Ratner, and over 100 others were publicly tarred and feathered. And now, many of those women seized the moment, and rose up with newfound wind beneath their wings, enjoying an unprecedented moment in the spotlight.
But you’d have to cast a pretty wide net to catch a handful of #MeToo advocates who value children enough to speak out against Call Me By Your Name. Same lie different day. There’s nothing new under the sun. Humans sacrifice humans on the alter of personal success. It’s worth noting that the same crowd who raged against Milo Yiannopoulos are embracing the sort of situation he, a victim of childhood sexual abuse, joked about. I have five kids and I’m sure, to this day, he’s still processing through that. I absolutely saw a young Milo in Elio’s character. I’m at a loss as to how such boldface hypocrisy goes unrecognized.
It’s almost as if there is a willful embrace of Hollywood’s own ignorance taking place. Who would have thought?
Rolling Stone touted Call Me By Your Name as “the most romantic movie of the year.” It is actually an irresponsible work met with standing ovations and pats on the back by the very same industry folks who have protected, and are currently protecting, predators. Everyone in town knows who they are. They are hiding out in the open, protected under the cover that Oscar-nominated grooming tools like this “anthem” provide.
Dawn Gregg is a Christian and mother who lives in Hollywood.
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