It’s filmmakers like Richard Day that make going to the movies exciting simply by providing fresh, unpredictable entertainment. You know, like movies used to be. His first feature, Girls Will Be Girls, totally blindsided me. I just wasn’t expecting a film about three female Hollywood wanna-bes to be so goddamn clever and original, made all the better by the outstanding performances and delicious set design you’d love to chew on. It was a very welcome surprise and Girls Will Be Girls stands as one of my personal favorites of last year. Enter “Straight-Jacket,” Day’s second feature and I could hardly wait to see what he had in store this time. Part of me was looking forward to another wild romp along the same lines of Girls Will Be Girls, with its crude humor that was presented in such a way that made it adorable. But then that wouldn’t be all that fresh and exciting now would it? Fortunately for us, Day has plenty more surprises up his sleeve and you can find plenty of them here in “Straight-Jacket.”
In 1950s Hollywood, actor Guy Stone spends most of his time in the public eye as one of the town’s biggest leading men. But his personal life is something he needs to keep secretly wrapped as this early Hollywood wouldn’t accept a gay movie star. Caught leaving a gay club one evening by a rival actor, pictures get out to the press and Guy Stone’s leading man image is in jeopardy. To put things back on track, Guy gets married to Sally, a studio secretary, who knows nothing of his gay lifestyle and takes the opportunity to be Mrs. Guy Stone in a heartbeat. Head over heels in love with her new leading man, Sally doesn’t question why Guy never wants to go out with her or why they have to keep separate bedrooms. She remains blissful in her ignorance and continues to soak up what she perceives as the good life. But the inevitable happens and Guy winds up falling in love with a hot young stud of a screenwriter whose social consciousness clashes a bit with Guys “boys just wanna have fun” attitude. Despite their differences, however, the two men form a relationship that becomes strained due to the closet their forced to live in and the red scare going on in Hollywood at the time.
This obvious take on the life of Hollywood movie star Rock Hudson contains that same hard edged humor I came to love in “Girls Will Be Girls,” just not quite as hard…or rude. At the heart of this film is a touching love story as well as a look at prejudice within Hollywood, so constant lewd sexual humor probably would have drowned this one. What is here, however, is perfect and once again Day is working with a marvelous cast, most notably Jack Plotnick (Evie in “Girls”) as Guy’s nemesis. The bizarre CGI make a return as well, at times creating the feeling of a “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” for adults, but mostly perfectly illustrating the fake world that is Hollywood.
In a perfect world, movies this clever would open in theaters every weekend. Maybe some day.