4th Man Out ***
Starring: Evan Todd, Parker Young, Chord Overstreet, Jon Gabrus
Director: Andrew Nackman
Sometimes, portraying a group of gay men on screen can be difficult. On the one hand, you want to portray gay men has being no different from their straight counterparts, but on the other, you want to celebrate the LGBT Community with Pride. The problem is that it’s sometimes very difficult to find that balance between the two. And with 4th Man Out, it never manages to reconcile the two.
Adam (Todd) is a young mechanic. None of his friends suspect that he’s gay, but when he comes out of the closet, they struggle to find how their laddish banter can go unchanged. But it doesn’t take long for them to realise that Adam actually has no problem with their behaviour, but instead has difficulty with other gay men, with whom he has no common ground. Together, the friends resolve to help Adam find a man, making him more palatable for other gay men, or vice versa.
Essentially, this is a film about identity. Though the film doesn’t explicitly state that being more or less masculine is a positive thing, it certainly veers in one direction over the other. Adam goes on a series of disastrous dates, which are as diverse as his friend are homogenous. But the one thing that all these car crashes have in common? All the characters he encounters are camp. And it isn’t until he meets another masculine gay man that he is able to entertain the idea of a potential relationship.
The problem doesn’t lie with Adam’s preference for more masculine men, but with the way all the less masculine characters are portrayed as strange and weird. From the closeted 40 year-old with a sex dungeon in his cellar to the eye-rolling sass-queen, these are the A-Z of the dregs of Grindr… which means you can’t help but wonder how Adam has so LITTLE clue of what he wants. And for some inexplicable reason, he continues to meet with some of them, despite clearly hating them.
The early scenes actually showed a lot of promise. The friends’ reaction to Adam’s coming out focuses more on how they can accommodate him, instead of the stock selfish reaction of their coming to terms with it. They barely flinch at his revelation, bickering over which one of them he fancies the most. But when they realise that their friend is struggling so much to find his identity, their support is refreshingly altruistic… except for a film whose message seems to be about the diversity of LGBT people, it does little but propagate some damaging stereotypes, regardless of how funny think they are in doing it. Instead of celebrating gay men, it feels like 4th Man Out is congratulating straight men on “being OK with them”.
As Buddy Movies go, this certainly has an edge, but where its initial scenes take tentative steps into interesting territory, it doesn’t take long before it finds itself wandering into tired narrative tropes and a clichéd vilification of effeminacy. Of COURSE there is a moment when Adam wrongly interprets signals from his friend. And there is even a scene in which one of the characters assumes that being gay is enough for two men to have in common to want to date each other. Eventually, it ends up feeling like the writer is going through a list of gay clichés like a checklist, with Adam feeling like a character embodying someone’s fantasy boyfriend, rather than any real incarnation from the LGBT spectrum. And heaven forbid they actually, y’know, showed any kind of actual same sex contact. Because, y’know, that’s not what the film was about or anything.
So, if you’re the kind of gay man who thinks LGBT visibility isn’t a good thing, then this is the film for you. But if you’re everyone else, there are far better straight/gay bromance films – niche though the genre is.
Available on Netflix.