What an Idiot brings me déjà vu. Or, to keep in touch with the film’s awful sense of humour, gayjà vu.
I thought I had seen the worst Canadian sex comedy last year with My Ex-Ex, a stupefyingly inept and vulgar exercise through juvenile smut. I thought by passing that endurance test, I would be in the clear. But, no. Little did I know, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of a rom-com conceived by real-life couple Peter and Julia Benson via IndieGoGo campaign.
Peter directs, Julia produces, and both star as leads with smug chemistry. The story (which they also co-wrote) involves a worker bee named Nick falling head-over-heels for his newly appointed boss Jackie, who is clearly out of his league. He drools for her and she can’t stand him, but upon learning that she surrounds herself with gay friends, Nick desperately blurts out that he’s a homosexual after failing to ask Jackie out on a date. She instantly changes her attitude as Nick ekes his way through this lie.
Audences have seen this sort of dynamic before. Personally, a lot of these groan-inducing jokes and portrayals reminded me of Cuba Gooding Jr.’s post-Oscar comedy Boat Trip, which should already signal a red flag for some readers. Boat Trip, in its wrong-headed and humiliating execution, is a guilty pleasure for some movie goers because of how far it goes with cartoony camp. What an Idiot, however, will never obtain that status because of how chicken it is.
Peter Benson’s comedy makes rash assumptions about gay culture and panicked heterosexuals. A homosexual character, who Jackie sets up Nick on a surprise date with, is thirsty for penis, refers to his own unit as “the weapon”, and chases Nick like a rabid dog. In an earlier scene, Nick and his “bros” (played by Kerr Smith, Benjamin Ayres, and Dave Collette as an off-brand imitation of friends in a Judd Apatow flick) refer to Jackie as a “fag hag” multiple times without batting an eye. These two scenes are handpicked from a slew of other examples that express just how ignorant and crass the film is. Even though these examples are within the context of a broad comedy, the material feels outrageously out of touch so much so that it actually becomes mean and discouraging.
Benson’s film is also offensive towards the rules of comedy. Once the screenplay makes a cruel joke, it immediately starts back-peddling to try and win back viewers – it’s too spineless to be daring. After the “fag hag” talk, a character abruptly questions if the term is derogatory. The epiphany doesn’t sound organic, it sounds obligatory. The film apologizes for its immature representation of gay communities by using cultural breakthroughs (like legalizing gay marriage) as a crutch to earn common ground with their punchlines.
What an Idiot has the appearance of a failed TV pilot with a stubborn, dated brain. Last year, the film won the award for Best Comedy Feature at the Red Dirt International Film Fest in Oklahoma. In a state of contention, I can only assume the rest of the festival’s comedic programming consisted of snuff films.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie