Despite its promising title, Jesse Rosen’s tiny L.A.-set The Art of Being Straight isn’t really about contemporary codes of masculinity or the rattling task of “passing” as heterosexual. Rather it’s a flimsy pseudo-autobiographical character piece from a first-time filmmaker playing an approximation of himself so dewy-eyed cute and effortlessly naive that many audiences will be hard-pressed to find enormous fault. After all, the “likability” factor goes a long way in negligible indie fare, and certainly in small-budget gay-themed niche moviemaking, at times even held up as an ideal equal to such matters as coherent editing and photography and certainly to performance. Tact and charm are attributes, but a rewarding movie experience they don’t necessarily make.
All this might portend a certain harshness in my response to the affable Art of Being Straight, but rather I’m just trying to impress that good-natured DV debuts deserve their critical fair shakes as much as any larger-scale indie or even studio product (something that those who leave irate comments on reviews don’t quite understand). And inoffensive as it is, Rosen’s personal soul-searcher is certainly rickety, featuring all the signs of being unpurposefully unpolished (clunky editing within conversations, overreliance on stultifying close-ups, anonymous spaces stripped of personality standing in for viable art direction, sloppy scene transitions that often seem to go on a beat too long) and many hallmarks of the indie playbook, including a heavy dose of wimp-rock on the soundtrack—here courtesy of The Musical Theatre—and even blink-and-miss cameos from those purveyors of dull non-conversation-making, Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, hanging out at a party.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of The Art of Being Straight.