CLOSET MONSTER (#TIFF15 Review)
Written and Directed by Stephen Dunn / Starring Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams and Isabella Rossellini
Oscar: She said I didn’t belong here.
CLOSET MONSTER exemplifies everything that I love about cinema. It is always a great and welcome surprise to be struck by a talent I’ve never heard of before. To a list that includes Baz Luhrmann (STRICTLY BALLROOM had me dancing on my way out the theatre) and Penelope Cruz (I remembered thinking after seeing her in BELLE EPOQUE that if she ever learned to speak English, she would be a major force), I add Newfoundland’s own, Stephen Dunn. This movie is the most assured feature film debut since Xavier Dolan’s I KILLED MY MOTHER. Truthfully, I also have a soft spot for coming of age movies and when I met Oscar Madly, first as a 5-year-old then as a teenager (a stunning, natural performance by Connor Jessup) I was rooting for him every step of the way. Traumatized as a young boy by his mother leaving and then seeing the brutal rape of a young man by bullies using a steel pipe, Connor turned out to be a skilled make-up design artist, hoping to continue down that path with an acceptance to an art college. He confides all his secrets and dreams to his pet hamster (voiced by Isabella Rossellini) whose no nonsense and honest approach he finds refreshing. He is also gay and deep in the family closet (that’s still filled with his mother’s clothes) as his emotionally damaged father (Aaron Abrams) is homophobia personified. Oscar’s life changes when he meets the handsome and rebellious Wilder (Aliocha Schneider). His journey is now fraught with adventure, self-discovery, pain and acceptance.
There is nary a false note in CLOSET MONSTER. As a writer, Dunn has a flair for dialogue. It’s funny without being precious and sitcom-like and the story progresses with uncanny ease. As a director, he is flashy without being gimmicky and the affection he feels for all his characters, whether they be hero or foe or animal is genuine. Whereas I cannot wait to see what journey Dunn will take me on the next time, I am a happier movie camper for having seen and savoured CLOSET MONSTER.
How many sheep would you give Closet Monster?