21 January 2016 | memres
The surreal overcome by the bland
It's difficult to evaluate this film. A relaxed romantic comedy, if well-executed, is welcome amongst LGBT films, which are often as angst-ridden as queer people's real lives too often are. 'ECupid' is light and qualifies as a 'rom-com' because of its basic 'boy-loses-boy, boy-finds-boy-again' trope. But that's where it ends. Generally, these films, whether gay or straight, have appealing characters in the leads, with whom the audience can identify, or at least like. This film has a curiously cold, dispassionate lead in the character of Marshall. As a couple, Marshall and Gabe are dreary and mismatched, already peculiar after their relationship's seven-year duration. The narrative into which they're plunged makes them props for a set of surreal circumstances. Triggered by Marshall's download of a dating app in an attempt to relieve his relationship's sagging sexual component, he finds himself in a low-level Buñuel-like situation, where inexplicable things happen and people turn up with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Any real person in a normal 'rom-com' would be alarmed, a certain hilarity ensuing from his reactions; but Marshall just walks through these bizarre turns of events nearly without reaction, almost as we see in 'The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie'--to which, I assure the reader, I am *not* comparing this trifle. If the film had stayed with a surreal premise, it might have succeeded better. But the film maker tried to conflate the surreal with the tediously ordinary. Despite his sexual frustration, and without even giving the alternatives provided by the dating app a chance, Marshall dismisses potentially exciting flings with the 'young skaters, bad boys, boy-next-door types, and naughty frat boys' we are told he craves. He suddenly only wants his boring, unsatisfying primary relationship, and the surreal dating app serves to reunite the dull couple. The juxtaposition of styles makes for an uneven tone, leaving one to wonder what Marshall was thinking.
Marshall and Gabe's problem, as we see instantly, is that they don't communicate and make entirely inaccurate assumptions about each other's motivations, itself implausible after seven years together. It all ends blandly, except for the annoyed viewer, who has been tantalized with the possibility of a more complex narrative texture and outcome. The film also seems to reiterate a narrow 'monogamy or nothing' credo, making the possibility of seeking to satisfy unmet needs immoral and forbidden. It wags a prudish, insulting finger at its intended audience, despite the semi-clad hunks who appear from time to time (there is no sex or nudity in the film). It also hints that on-line dating is fraught with unimaginably odd perils. But 'eCupid' has its moments.