Published May 25, 2015Andrew Nackman's feature directorial debut, Fourth Man Out, is very much like the plethora of indie "coming out" comedies of the early '00s. At the time, openly gay characters were very rarely seen on film — typically relegated to peripheral roles as perverts or victims if they weren't dying from AIDS — which is why those oft-terrible limited release movies (usually featuring cameo roles from actresses like Christina Ricci or Lisa Kudrow) were forgiven for their bad acting, rudimentary direction, clumsy writing and trite tropes.
In 2015, in a world where movies like Brokeback Mountain and The Kids are All Right exist, more is demanded of queer cinema. Simply existing isn't enough anymore; it has to be good.
From the outset, this unintentionally homophobic tale struggles to define and understand the sexuality and gender it plays with. Adam (Evan Todd), a closeted mechanic, decides it's time to come out to his gang of straight best buds: the promiscuous Nick (Chord Overstreet), the committed Ortu (Jon Gabrus) and the unlucky in love Chris (Parker Young). Now, such a scenario could generate some legitimate comedy, but here, it's exceedingly awkward.
The initial problem — a problem that plagues Fourth Man Out for its duration — is the writing. Nick, Ortu and Chris are very much written from a perceptual, outsider perspective. Their strained "bro" talk has a discomforting, cringe-inducing vibe not entirely dissimilar to the experience of seeing Gwyneth Paltrow rapping. And even worse than the clumsy dialogue and unlikely reactions is the fact that no real consideration of what motivates these characters is given. We understand that they all like boobs and fucking, but beyond those shared mutual interests, there's really nothing to define them as people. The women are similarly written as empty shells, with Chris's girlfriend Jessica (Jordan Lane Price) being broadly defined as a texting airhead and his later love interest Tracy (Jennifer Damiano) being defined as the cool girl based almost wholly on the fact that she loves the movie Ghostbusters.
Really, the only character given any consideration is Adam, which is a shame, since he's kind of a whiny, shallow, self-involved cipher suffering from internalized homophobia (something that's isn't acknowledged within the film at all). Once he comes out, most of the comedy (or lack thereof) stems from unintended crude double-entendres from his straight friends and the shitty dates he has with guys he meets online. Montage date scenes, for example, can be funny if the observed idiosyncrasies have some truth or a sense of contrary peculiarity, but here they mostly exist to denigrate effeminate or less conventionally attractive gays. It's like a conservative culling for A&F archetypes with humour that is limited to a very narrow, very generic worldview.
To be fair, there are a couple of jokes that do connect — both come from Jon Gabrus, who has a knack for timing and delivery — but most of what's put out there is extraordinarily outdated and cheesy. Worse is that the central conflict beyond the "coming out," which ultimately turns out to be a non-issue, stems from Adam's potential crush on his straight buddy Chris, which reinforces an oft-inaccurate stereotype.
None of this is portrayed with any sense of self-awareness or irony. We are genuinely expected to identify with Adam and invest in his mostly narcissistic quest. Although, on the upside, this probably isn't any more shallow and appalling than a mainstream romantic comedy featuring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. (Independent)