Jim Fields’ Flyover Country takes a look at the unlikely friendship of Todd (Myles Dabbs) and Russ (Mike Mecek); the former, an openly gay college student and the latter, his vocally homophobic classmate. Bonding one day over weed and beer, and eventually over their shared interests in foreign films and jazz, the duo become good friends. That is, until Todd, mistaking Russ’ rowdy wrestling play as a sign of affection, kisses him.
The two split, with Russ doubling down on his homophobia, before somewhat recanting to save the friendship. This is just the beginning for the two friends’ adventures, however, as Russ is repeatedly confronted with a truth about himself that he can’t yet embrace, and Todd pursues his own endeavors, that may take him far from Nebraska. Throughout, the two friends come in and out of each other’s lives, for better or worse.
Tonally, the film can be somewhat scattered. While there are strongly comedic scenes, or even cutesy romantic comedy moments, the films also turns on some severe dramatic events and, in one instance, some brutal violence. It’s hard to find comedy in Russ’ more vocally homophobic moments, however. Often you find yourself disliking Russ, and question how Todd can even indulge the jerk, though it is also clear that Russ’ anger and hatred is an extension of issues he’s privately having.
The film also, while doing its best to be progressive about the life of a collegiate homosexual, and his “doth protest too much” friend, seems to fall back on the idea that an appreciation of foreign films, and jazz, is a universal sign of homosexuality. The number of times that becomes the bonding point, or is mentioned as a trait of a gay character, was a point too often to be ignored. I understand that there needed to be something more than weed and beer to spur on Russ and Todd’s initial friendship, but foreign films and jazz seemed to keep coming up, and not just between those two.
Overall, however, the film does a solid job of tracking two lives and giving us a glimpse of the complexities inherent in living an openly gay lifestyle in the Midwest and, on the other side, coming to terms with truths about your own sexuality that you’re not ready to deal with yet. Both Todd and Russ have their journeys to take in the film, and while they often intersect, they also diverge severely throughout. It’s a challenge to balance both narratives fairly, but I think the film rises to the occasion more often than not.
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