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Review: Call Me by Your Name (Sundance) starring Armie Hammer

Call Me by Your Name (Sundance) starring Armie Hammer
01.25.2017
9 10

PLOT: A young man (Timothée Chalamet) spending the summer with his parents in Italy circa 1983, find his sexuality awakened when a visiting academic (Armie Hammer) moves in to help his father (Michael Stuhlbarg) with an archaeological project.

REVIEW: Up to now, I’ve been fairly critical of director Luca Guadagnino, whose films have always stuck me as beautiful but ultimately hollow. Such was the case for I AM LOVE, and for sure it’s how A BIGGER SPLASH felt, despite the no holds barred charisma of Ralph Fiennes. If I’ve ever thought his movies favored style-over-substance, his latest, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, is thoroughly engaging, telling a remarkably evocative and touching love story that’s a big breakthrough. It’s a gay-themed film that celebrates sexuality and given the rapturous reception afforded it here, seems like a good bet for some major awards attention this fall.

Based on the novel André Aciman, and co-written by James Ivory, this functions both as a coming of age tale as well as a love story, albeit one that never goes in the direction you think it might. The movie is anchored by Timothée Chalamet’s performance as Elio. Seventeen and experimenting with his sexuality, he’s in the midst of a sexual affair with a visiting french girl, although his reaction to Armie Hammer’s older academic (twenty-four) shakes up his perspective on what kind of sex he prefers.

Hammer is thoroughly engaging as the brash Oliver. Embracing a casualness that charms Elio’s folks but rubs the younger man the wrong way, at first Elio hates Oliver, but when he sees him tom-cating around town, hooking up with gorgeous Italian girls, his curiosity is piqued. Eventually the two acknowledge their attraction to each other, and their romance dominates the second half.

The movie lives and dies on the chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer. Neither seems to be in control of where things are going, even if Hammer is the more experienced, but still vulnerable one. Hammer’s maybe never been this good (although he’s been on a good run lately with FREE FIRE). He’s ultra charismatic, and its easy to see how everyone in town, men and women alike, fall under his spell.

As usual for Guadagnino, it’s utterly gorgeous. Set in a small Italian town over the summer, one can’t help but wish they could move into the film, lounging around this gorgeous town, hanging out at outdoor discotheques and swimming in hidden hot springs. Everyone also happens to be beautiful, especially Chalamet’s young french friend, Esther Garrel, a stunning creature.

The 1983 setting also adds to the fantasy aspect, given this a Euro-erotica vibe that works well in the film, and also allows for some choice soundtrack selections, most notably The Psychedelic Furs’s “Love My Way.” Sufjan Stevens also contributes several original songs, the dreaminess of which also adds to the magic, fable-like quality of the film.

Guadagnino’s film is almost certain to connect with a significant audience, and along with this year’s MOONLIGHT marks a significant step forward for a mainstream film embracing gay themes. Despite this, there’s a certain universality to the romance and while it may resonate more for a gay audience, it’s hard not to imagine anyone being significantly affected by this. I know I was, as it’s the rare film that casts a spell and a universe you can’t help but wish you could join.

Source: JoBlo.com

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