Charlotte Sometimes

It's turning into an interesting year for Asian-American filmmakers. Justin Lin gave audiences Better Luck Tomorrow just a few months ago, and now comes Eric Byler's Charlotte Sometimes. Both directors are trying to repudiate ancient stereotypes of Asian-American. Where Lin dealt more with the fact that people believe all Asian students study well and are good, Byler deals more with sexuality and broader themes. Asian women are seen as sexual objects, while Asian men are either asexual or so horny they become a parody. This film presents Asians in such a way that equates them with everybody else. The characters in Charlotte Sometimes do not necessarily need to be Asian. Their actions, thoughts, and feelings are universal. They just happen to be Asian, and there's nothing wrong with that. And, they all happen to be jerks.

Charlotte Sometimes revolves around the games people play with each other. Michael (Michael Idemoto, Sunsets) is a quiet man, terse sometimes to the point of rudeness. He lives in a duplex, with longtime friend Lori (Eugenia Yuan). Lori is one of those insanely cute women that all men, including Michael, lust after. However, she has a boyfriend, Justin (Matt Westmore, Hard as Nails, Southside), and the two enthusiastically (and loudly) make love every night. Michael can hear them, and to make things worse, Lori comes up after to hang out with him. She encourages him to date women, and he seems indifferent until he meets Darcy (Jacqueline Kim, Hollywood Sign, Brokedown Palace).

Darcy and Michael seem an odd fit. She is mysterious, refusing to reveal much about herself. She quickly wants to consummate the relationship, while Michael wants to wait. Lori takes an instant dislike to her, while Darcy flirts with Justin. The addition of Darcy to radically changes the dynamic within Michael's duplex. Byler (Kealoha: The Beloved, Kenji's Faith) skillfully navigates these treacherous waters, examining how each person reacts to the things happening around them. Usually, it's by trying to somehow use the male counterpart in their lives. Lori wants commitment, and keeps forcing Justin deeper into the relationship. Darcy just seems to be playing games with Michael, who just goes along.

For most of the film, the Michael character presents something of a problem. He has very little dialogue, and seems passive to the point of boredom. It's difficult to imagine what he's thinking, and although Byler did this purposely, it does get a tad annoying. Byler is pretty minimal on other things (including light, sheesh, turn on the lights!). If this were a conventional film, it would be over in half an hour. By stretching things out, the effect is to make everybody seem much more thoughtful. They have more time to ponder how lonely they actually are, and more time to try to figure out what to do about it. Things begin to coalesce near the end, when intentions become clearer and secrets are revealed. It's a pretty depressing ride sometimes, but hard not to watch.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Not Rated but contains language, nudity, and sexuality, an R.

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