In the late Nineties and early 2000s, I picked up XY Magazine whenever I saw it on the news rack, usually at Borders, Tower Records, or Unabridged. It was a sort of gay culture Sassy meets Star Hits—I’m showing my age here, I know. Unbeknownst to me, XY contributor Michael Glatze went from “out” in San Francisco to poster boy for Evangelical conversion therapy in a matter of years. This film chronicles his seemingly bizarre change of heart.
I Am Michael has the makings of a winner: a complicated and interesting true story, a star cast, and timely subject matter. Sadly, it’s a big disappointment. James Franco is just okay as Glatze—never mind that his real-life sexual ambiguity rings tired these days. However true to life the events in the film may be, so many gay cliches—circuit parties, techno music, three-ways, drugs, fake blonde hair—are thrown in that it feels flat, hollow, and insulting after awhile. Worse, cowriter/director Justin Kelly gives short, superficial treatment to what drives Glatze’s metamorphosis; he provides a basic explanation but fails to get inside the guy’s head in any meaningful way. On top of all that, the film has the cheap look of a made-for-television movie. Surely, a gay can do better than this.
On the positive side, Zachary Quinto as Glatze’s suffering partner, Bennet, is great; he expertly builds his character’s frustration and weariness with Glatze’s constant angst and Bible diving while remaining tender when he needs to (for example, as he does when Glatze calls him out of the blue). Emma Roberts as Rebekah, the girl Glatze meets at Bible school and eventually marries, is also great; she plays a “nice girl” really well, and she makes us feel her confused uneasiness with his past. Both are memorable high points in a forgettable film.
(AMC River East) D
Chicago International Film Festival