Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reel Thoughts: Three Cheers for Ready? OK!

The poignant coming-of-age and acceptance comedy Ready, OK! (available this week on DVD) is a cinematic cousin to the French film, Ma Vie En Rose, and a counterpoint to Charles Busch’s touching film A Very Serious Person. In all three, young boys who are attracted to dresses, dolls, show tunes or cheerleading are forced to grow up and give up the things they love to please a parent or other adult.

In Ready, OK!, all young Josh (newcomer Lurie Poston) wants is to be on the cheer squad. His loving single mother, Andrea (the sublime Carrie Preston), has so much on her plate, working for a demanding diva of a boss and having to support her unemployed brother who comes and goes out of her life, that she doesn’t have time to give Josh the understanding of which she’s capable. It falls to her gay neighbor, Charlie, who is played by Preston’s husband Michael Emerson, to encourage Josh to be who he is and not to let the bullies at school change him. It is quite a departure for Emerson, who is infamously evil as Ben Linus on Lost. He imbues Charlie with a sweetness and integrity that makes it impossible for Andrea to contradict.

Writer/director James Vasquez (29th and Gay) has crafted a warm and appealing picture that proves that disapproving and seemingly judgmental parents aren’t always bad people or religious nuts. Andrea is a good person, but is so pressured by outside influences she can’t accept and embrace her son until shown the dangers of her attitude.

It’s interesting to compare the film with Busch’s drama, because in that film, it is a gay person himself who tries to change the boy. As Josh, Poston is a self-assured young actor — he’d have to be to pull off that Maria Von Trapp dress he wears to school — but he doesn’t bring a lot of charisma or personality to his role. Still, I think most gay people can definitely identify with being an outsider as a child, and that one terrible moment when you first become aware that you’re different. That’s where Ready, OK! succeeds best, and you might find yourself cheering at the end.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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