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Hang in There for the 2nd Half.
on July 15, 2009
"Mulligans" is, for the most part, another one of those problematic, independent, gay-themed films that no major studio would touch. Overall, it's not a bad movie... in fact, when it's good, it's really good. You just have to get through the plodding first half to get to the good stuff.
Let's knock out first what doesn't work here. First off, Charlie David (Chase) and Derek Baynham (Tyler) are WAY too old for their parts. They're supposed to be college kids on summer break, but they both look about 28 years old (which, in fact, they were when this film was made.) This wouldn't be quite so bothersome if not for the fact that Tyler's parents, Nathan (Dan Payne) and Stacey (Thea Gill) look only about ten years older than him (which, in fact, they were when this film was made.)
Next: the big, dumb, loud party scene. `Nuff said.
The biggest problem I had with "Mulligans" was that writer/producer/actor David clearly had it in mind that his character, Chase, was supposed to be the focal point of the story. Considering the DVD box features his handsome mug 20 times larger than the family in the background, I'm easily led to believe that this was intended to be something of a vanity project. Unfortunately, it probably became clear to him halfway through filming that Chase is only the catalyst here, and that the real story - the interesting one - involves the family going through a less-than-orthodox breakdown.
Frankly, I didn't care about the character of Chase at all. David's one-note acting didn't help the cause. Neither did the fact that Chase is a painter... something that was done far more realistically and thoughtfully in "Shelter". Here, it's just a cliché device to show how sensitive Chase is. (Forget the fact that he embarks on an affair with his best friend's still-quite-married dad while mom is away visiting grandma.) Chase would have made for a great "bad guy" here; instead, David chooses to make him come across as something of a nice-boy and a victim. It's a weak choice that nearly unhinges the film.
It all looks like it's going to go into the drink when something miraculous happens: the second half of the film. Nathan is discovered and forced to come out, and suddenly the film takes on a third dimension.
A lot of the credit for this amazing upturn is directly attributable to Dan Payne's subtle, aching performance. He's given the impossible task of making us believe that a former high-school football player turned Porsche-driving stud-businessman-golfer could be hiding in the closet for years, and succeeds beautifully. Yeh, it's unlikely this could happen, but with Payne helming the ship through its most unbelievable passages, it strikes us all as very real.
I have to say that I didn't care for Thea Gill's performance as doting-wife-and-mom Stacey throughout the first half of the film. She tries too hard to come across as a suburban phony, making for a lot of very forced moments. But, once again, once Nathan's character is exposed, Gill drops the phony routine and shows us who Stacey really is: a bitter but realistic woman who is as tired of living a lie as Nathan is. The scene where she confronts her husband with the truth is so well done it's nearly a part of another film. What could have plunged into a pool of soap ends up being the crowning scene in the film, one that brims with emotion and a refreshing sense of honesty. Bravo.
Update 8/9/11: Perhaps someone noticed my review... the updated DVD box now features Dan Payne along side Charlie David (and in equal proportions.)