‘Were the World Mine’ a gay (as in merry, too) romp
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
To paraphrase Shakespeare, the course of “Were the World Mine” does not run smoothly.
The film, which shows Friday at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House, starts out on standard gay-themed footing, then opens up to include broader issues and straight characters, and even allow slivers of humor into the picture. Halfway through, it takes a sharp twist into the realm of magic and fantasy, before finally landing with a frothy, fairy-tale ending.
But Tom Gustafson, who co-wrote and directed the film, weaves two constant elements through all these abrupt turns, providing a sufficient measure of coherence. Even the most serious sections of “Were the World Mine” are topped by an overall sense of fun, even silliness. And lingering over the entire story is the notion that art and imagination ” especially Shakespeare’s language ” are forces powerful enough to transform intolerant hearts and minds. On paper, this probably looks like a mess. In the real world, however ” or at least the film festival universe, both the straight and gay varieties ” “Were the World Mine” has earned a handful of audience and jury awards.
The film starts on predictable ground, with a troubled teenage boy. Timothy (Tanner Cohen) is a student at a snooty private school in a woodsy, well-to-do town. Timothy is well-adjusted to his sexual orientation, but not so those around him: not the classmates who torment him, nor his mother (Judy McLane), who reminds him of the sacrifices she is making to send her son to private school. Timothy takes refuge in his two oddball best friends: the guitar-toting, sexually wide-open cutie Frankie (Zelda Williams), and Max (Ricky Goldman), whose misfit status seems to stem mostly from being a black kid in a white environment.
This would all seem frighteningly after-school-specialish, but the drama is broken up with choreographed musical scenes, and certain characters ” especially Nora Fay (Jill Larson), the positive-thinking businesswoman and the mayor’s wife to boot ” are exaggerated to the hilt. It is a tip that the film is winking at us; it also creates an opening for the twists that lie ahead.
The devoted, artsy drama teacher (Wendy Robie) gives the reluctant Timothy the lead role of Puck in a school production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and Shakespeare’s comedy of romance, magic, make-believe and intoxication works its magic. First it works on Timothy, who begins to see in Shakespeare the transformative quality of art. Then it works on everyone around him: Armed with a purple flower squirting magic potion, Timothy doses his mother, classmates and teachers. Their homophobia is only the first inhibition to go by the wayside.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” then takes over the film itself, as “Were the World Mine” turns into a wonderland of color, theater, music, lust and open-mindedness. It’s messy and over-the-top, but energetic, fun and original. And it sure beats another drama of a gay teen coming out of the closet.
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