February 3, 2008

Whole New Thing review
Whole new thing screenshot

Adam: Two and a half stars

Length:92 min


Who was YOUR first crush?

Review by Adam:

I’ve seen lots of movies lately that deal with issues around queer-identifying individuals, which I think is great. I appreciate their difference (as opposed to almost every other movie that is hetero-normative and involves marriage and monogamy and everything that is ‘standard’ in society). A lot of these films, however, seem to have the protagonists as emotional morons. Maybe this is reflective of the potential for emotional trauma from living in a society that either ‘accepts’ your sexuality (like it’s something that’s abnormal but ok) or outright degrades it (as opposed to being celebrated and encouraged like it should). As someone who isn’t queer-identifying maybe I’m missing the subtle characteristics that need to be portrayed in these characters.

Whole New Thing revolves around the talented 13-year-old, home-schooled Emerson, who has to venture towards institutional schooling. The story follows the growing infatuation between Emerson and his English teacher, Don, a man dealing with mistakes he has made in previous relationships. While Emerson’s family life is being plagued by the mistakes previously made by Don, Emerson develops a crush on his teacher.  For Don, any acknowledgement of his feelings would clearly result in him losing his job and alienating an already lonely man.

Don, played excellently by Daniel MacIvor, holds this movie together with his restrained acting, in contrast to the wordy, moronic excesses of his fellow actors.  And this is my beef with this movie: I personally can’t stand to watch a movie about people who continue to knowingly make the wrong choices that inflame situations.  At one point, the movie hits an unbelievable point in that no one in their right mind (even a 13-year-old) would do some of the stuff that happens. Emerson gets totally out of control and his hormones seem to take control over his entire thought processes.

So I found myself disengaging from the storyline and not even really wanting closure (that actually doesn’t arise). Whole New Thing touches nicely on what it must be like to have what is common surrounding you in a way that doesn’t allow for questioning. Emerson is at his peak in his free thinking and his ability to cut through social norms in a way that has a subtle and striking brilliance (particularly on gender and sexuality). That is the best part of the movie but it is sadly undone by the escalating craziness of Emerson and his parents.

Maybe I’m too embedded in the ridiculous Hollywood style of blowing stuff up or paper thin characters. Despite my hatred of this, I can stomach it. I know it’s not real, it never promoted itself as something else. Whole New Thing touches on real issues and has the potential to portray them in a meaningful way.  Yet it gets carried away in trying to make it gripping. Perhaps Whole New Thing  is a case of focusing on the message and not the medium.


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