Doc of the Day: Bi the Way Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: Bi the Way

Posted in Days of Docs, Reviews, Theme Weeks by - May 17, 2012

 Everybody’s having sex with everybody! Let’s discuss. Day Five of LGBT Week.

Dir. Brittany Blockman & Josephine Decker, 2008, 85 min

Bisexuality is on the rise in America, especially among the youth. Adults call us the “whatever generation,” and is that lack of concern about labels the reason for this bicurious boom? Or have there always been this many bisexuals, and it’s just now, in a more accepting society, that more people are able to come out? Is bisexuality even “a thing” or are there just a lot of kids playing around and a few gay people unwilling to come out of the closet? Or is the answer something much more complicated? Are these even the right questions to be asking, or does there need to be a paradigm shift in how we think about sex and sexuality?

To explore this phenomenon, directors Brittany Blockman and Josephine Decker set out on a road trip, visiting various young people experimenting with their sexuality. Among other subjects, they meet with a Tennessee teen who is afraid to reveal that she likes girls as well as boys to her parents, a dancer in New York who fears it’s “not black” to be bi, and an eleven-year-old in Texas who constantly wonders how he’ll turn out when he hits puberty, due to having a straight mother and gay father. The directors also talk with psychologists, biologists, anthropologists, and other “ologists” to learn the academic side of these issues.

Unfortunately, the film’s analysis doesn’t really go further than asking the same questions that I posed in the opening paragraph. It’s not terribly thought-provoking, which is a shame, since this is a provocative topic. But really, everything about this movie is amateur hour. Despite supposedly structuring itself around a road trip, the story skips all over the country at will. The directors don’t seem to have grasped the reason you bother with the narrative spine of a road trip. “Cute” asides like the duo asking a drive-thru attendant where they can find a bisexual Mormon just made me roll my eyes. But then, I believe that a director shouldn’t step in front of the camera so often unless they’re willing to make themselves a part of the story, which these two don’t, so it’s just artistically incongruous.

But the doc could have still been a light, fluffy curiosity if it had brought in better characters. Except this is a film about modern youth, so finding legitimately introspective subjects, or scratching the surface of seemingly shallow subjects to probe their minds, was going to be difficult. The people here range from boring (the dancer) to annoying (the kid) to flat-out contemptible. One self-involved couple experimenting in open relationships is especially awful. The man calls himself “Rage,” which should give you a good idea of what a douche he is.

I’ve been out-of-step with my generation about many, many things. In fact, I think that “whatever” is a terrible response to most things. So perhaps I missed the boat on bisexuality the way I did on, say, popular music. At any rate, I couldn’t really relate to any of these characters or the things they’re talking about, and not because I’m straight, but because they’re either apathetic or un-self-aware about themselves. And as an outsider, the film should have helped me empathize with them. It didn’t, and I think it’s because it was directed by two young people, who took for granted that everything they captured made sense. It doesn’t. I learned nothing new about bisexuality either intellectually or, more importantly, emotionally.

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Dan Schindel loves movies more than you do.

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