Totally F***ed Up (1993)

GREGG ARAKI

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.   

USA, 1993, , .  Screenplay by .  Cinematography by Gregg Araki.  Produced by Gregg Araki, .  Film Editing by Gregg Araki.  Toronto International Film Festival 1993.  

Director Gregg Araki’s follow up to The Living End is a sexy, funny and appealing look at a group of young people in Los Angeles, meant as a queer response to the John Hughes films of the eighties.  It takes its inspiration from the statistics being reported at the time (and still are, unfortunately) regarding young queer people and suicide, but in tackling this issue Araki wisely avoids melodramatic cliches:  rather than judge his youngsters from his older viewpoint by presenting them as moody and depressed teenagers, these characters are bright and hopeful but live in a world that undermines them in numerous ways.  At the centre of the cast is as a lonely young man who experiences the pangs of romance, while his friend group includes a gay couple on the skids, a lesbian couple who are preparing to have a baby, and a young man whose sexual identity is confused by his sexual activity. It has a tragic ending but it’s not told tragically, nor is its conclusion as didactic despite the message that inspired it. Araki gives all the characters a sense of courage and humour to go along with their ability to struggle against the odds, and pairs it with a fresh and appealing visual landscape emphasizing bright colours and beautiful locations that feel vibrant despite what is clearly a very low-budget shoot.

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