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That's Not Us

by Kilian Melloy
Sunday Mar 27, 2016
'That's Not Us'
'That's Not Us'  

"That's Not Us" is a mixed bag.

That's a good thing in terms of the cast of characters, which includes three couples -- Alex (Sarah Warton) and Jackie (Nicole Pursell), a lesbian pair; Spencer (David Rysdahl) and his boyfriend James (Mark Berger); and straight couple Liz (Elizabeth Gray) and Dougie (Tommy Nelms). But in terms of the twenty-something angst this six-pack of pals wrestle with during the course of an autumn weekend on Fire Island, the stakes are just as often nebulous (or unconvincing) as they are understandable and accessible.

Each couple has a relationship problem to work out, the most commonplace and easily graspable being James' conflicted feelings about Spencer having gotten into a prestigious grad school program in Chicago. (We're never quite sure what's keeping James from simply moving to Chicago along with Spencer, should Spencer choose to go, but whatever.)

Less obvious is the trouble between Alex and Jackie, who spend most of the movie talking past each other, with Jackie putting off an insincere vibe (except when she gets cranky about things like Alex having brought a rainbow-colored sex toy along on their vacation... and then, later, using it in the same shower where the other couples have been getting frisky). The first convincing thing Jackie says is to another character, when she's asked, in passing, how her weekend is going. "Great," Jackie says, with unmissable sarcasm.

Not that Alex is any better; she's something of a Lena Dunham type, and seemingly can't ever quite manage to say what she means (assuming she knows what she means in the first place). She's got "First World Ginned-Up Drama" written all over her.

So does Dougie, who is guarding an awkward secret that, once aired, opens the way to a deeper and more genuine relationship problem. Luckily, Dougie has Liz to goad and push him along until they've arrived at an understanding -- with considerably less Sturm und Drang than the others go through.

There are many charming moments scattered through the film, and the cast have the advantage of being likable. There's also a huge punchline near the end of the film that throws everything into a different light -- it's funny and fitting.

If you're young and want to see your doubts and anxieties represented (or, for some reason, want to remember what being young was like), then this is a film for you. Anyone else could take it or leave it. If there's nothing better playing, I say take it; it'll make you smile, even as you roll your eyes.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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