Closet Monster, written and directed by Stephen Dunn, is a charming dramatic film with touches of comedy. It is superbly acted and directed, and will make you smile, cringe, laugh, cry, angry and leave you feeling upbeat about life.
It is a coming of age film and stars Connor Jessup in the title role as Oscar Madly age 18 who experiences not only his first crush, first kiss and many other firsts but comes to terms with his sexuality and rebels against and breaks free from his loving but controlling out of control, macho, insensitive, passive aggressive father Peter Madly wonderfully played by the talented Aaron Abrams.
Jessup gives a stellar performance playing the likeable, articulate, intelligent, and socially awkward Oscar, a really good kid, who dreams of becoming a special effects make-up artist. He revels in his close personal friendship with Gemma played by the talented and sweet Sofia Banzhaf who indulges him and serves as his model for his work, takes comfort in his relationship with his talking hamster voiced by the fabulous Isabella Rossellini, and in his supportive, loving relationship with his mother Brin Madly played by Joanne Kelly, and takes refuge in his amazing treehouse. When he makes acquaintances with the sexy, cool kid Wilder played by Aliocha Schneider at work and as their friendship evolves, things take an interesting and unusual turn for Oscar. When his dreams are dashed, he gets into a physical scuffle with his father over his mother’s clothes which Oscar decides to wear to the costume party and which his father has stored in his bedroom closet for years. Oscar leaves the house in an agitated state and makes his way to Wilder’s costume party where he gets a make-over, does drugs, attempts casual sex, and crashes on the bathroom floor. If you want to find out what happens to Oscar, well, you have got to watch the film.
There was so much to love about the film. I loved the linear narrative storyline interspersed with flashbacks and dream sequences. The elliptical transition of watching a young Oscar age 9 (played by an adorable Jack Fulton) struggling to climb the treehouse rope at his father’s encouragement while watching the rope begin to tear and eventually break, and seeing Oscar the young man age 18 fall to the ground, I thought, a master stroke of editing and beautifully straddles the two narratives of Oscar age 9 and age 18. I liked the comedic touches running through the film. Here are a few. I especially loved Mary Walsh’s performance as Alison, Oscar’s supervisor, with her deadpan humour, training Connor in being an effective sales associate, and her cute dog, Igor Pugdog. It was scary but hilarious to watch the antics of a panicked Oscar and a relaxed buzzed Wilder save Buffy the hamster who somehow managed to escape her box while Wilder was driving, and ended up wedging herself inside the car radio. The bathroom scene when Oscar meets his father’s girlfriend Christine is a hoot too. And the pseudo Viking burial of Buffy the hamster at the end of the film that Oscar gives her is not only sweet and funny but touching. I really liked how the story was situated in the port city of St. John’s, Newfoundland which gave the story a distinctive Canadian Maritime context, and added depth and character to the film’s allusion of isolation. The cut aways of St. John’s and the coast were visually stunning. The music and soundtrack of the film is fantastic, and moves and sets the tone for the film.
I give the film two thumbs up. Do see it for you won’t be disappointed for it is an excellent film, well-crafted and acted.
Elevation Pictures releases Closet Monster on Friday, July 15, 2016 in Toronto