XX/XY (2002)

See, here’s the thing with this movie that threw me for a loop, something that I was shocked at, there is inevitably a difference between the first half and second half of the movie. There is so much of a difference between the first and second half that it makes the two split “XX/XY” feel like two movies. Much like the recent film I’ve seen, “Club Dread” which had such trouble mixing two elements it felt like two movies, “XX/XY” suffers from what I now have created called “two movie syndrome”. What’s two movie syndrome, well it’s a film in which the first half and the second half are so different that it feels like two movies, so I’m stuck with the unfortunate duty of reviewing two movies, the first half and the second half which are so different in color, tone, texture and dialogue, that I was so shocked when the second half approached and it was inevitably a rip of “Sex, Lies, and Videotape”, in a good way, and then there was the first half.

I liked the second half a lot, it was such a good examination of a relationship you knew wasn’t good to begin with, but then there is the first half, so this is my review of both halves. Now, how do you make a pretentious pompous independent art film? You do everything director Austin Chick does in the awful first half which just had me sliding down in my seat because not only was it just so dull but so damn bloated in narcissism with such a hazy dreary story that made no sense whatsoever. Take some horny twenty something’s, film them partying, drugging, and drinking, put them in a dark room with dim bad lighting and have them interact with one another in trite and awfully boring dialogue and pass it off as artsy fartsy filmmaking.

Oh, and have inserts like “Springtime”, “Wintertime” before every scene like chapters, have French soundtracks, blurry hazy camera work, and have as much sexual content as possible, because sex is never crude in the film world, it’s almost always deemed as art and not pornography. Define pornography; I define it as films with no story, bad acting, and a lot of sex… well two out of three ain’t bad; No story, and a lot of sex, so this is porn! No, you’ll say, this is art. Fine, call me dumb, but I just didn’t get what in god’s name this film was trying to achieve if it was trying to achieve anything in the first place. What-is-the-point of the dialogue? What is the point of the situations, and why is there so much pretension in this? Why did the character Sam put up such a fit about having a threesome with her boyfriend and acted like it was sacrilege?

Why did the two even want to get back together, when it was clear their relationship pretty much sucked? What in god’s name was the point of the sequence in the subway and why did Coles and Sam act like it didn’t happen later on in the film? Dear lord, who cares? Now, what we have with the second half of the film, the half I actually enjoyed is a film different in tone and texture and just mood. Where as the first half felt like a bad sexual art film, the second half was so different I was dumbfounded. We have an encounter with the character of Coles with a movie-goer who saw his film and demands his money back and explains he and his girlfriend broke up after watching the movie, a scene that was not only very well done, but very funny as well; I only wish I could have done that for “House of the Dead”.

The second thing about this movie is Mark Ruffalo. This is an actor who you’ve got to hand it to him for starring in these independent films because it’s ballsy. Much like Harvey Keitel, he seems to star in a lot of these young filmmakers’ independent films and first outings and he really takes risks with these movies. I thought he was so bland the first time out but he’s really a very underrated unassuming actor but he’s also a smart actor who actually takes risks with his career and “XX/XY” is a film that is not only risky, but different.

I really enjoyed the character chemistry for the second half of this outing, because their relationships are established from the get-go and you already know which relationships are set for the ages and which are doomed to failure. I really liked the second half and give credit for the creative and attractive relationships we’re exposed to. I don’t know how it’s possible for a movie to feel so different in both its second and first half, but director Austin Chick makes it possible with a first half that is so utterly pompous, pretentious and dull, and then have a second half that’s so fascinating in character study. Unfortunately, the first half outweighs the second in this by the numbers relationship drama saved only by Ruffalo’s performance and presence.