A line from an old Billy Idol song (“Hole in the Wall”) appropriately sums up the plot of playwright Ian MacAllister-McDonald’s charming and touching debut feature film Some Freaks:
“We were such an ugly pair,
The chameleon twins they’d stop and stare.
Lovers know when love has gone.
A black hole there where love was once the end.”
Rhode Island high school senior Matt Ledbetter (Thomas Mann), who has the unflattering nickname “Cyclops” because of the patch he wears over his fucked up eye, doesn’t fit in with his classmates. Awkward and unpopular and literally a freak, his only friend is schlubby neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie gay motormouth Elmo (Ely Henry), who seems eager to blow just about any guy—not that any guy is ever going to let him. Lucky Matt gets to hear all of Elmo’s fantasies in graphic detail as they play video games. Yipee.
A chubby new girl (Lily Mae Harrington) in thrift store clothes and green-streaked hair flirts with Matt in biology class. Matt doesn’t know what to make of her, but he’s obviously intrigued even though he’s all shy about it. She turns out to be Elmo’s cousin Jill, who’s staying with his family for the school year after some trouble at home in Oregon.
Jill and Matt get off to a rocky start when she overhears him crack a fat joke about her to Elmo. Despite her tough facade, cynical and insecure Jill is forgiving—she has no choice because she has a thing for Matt. The three of them start hanging out. To Elmo’s dismay, Matt and Jill fall for each other and start dating.
WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead!
The end of high school brings about a quandary neither starcrossed lover anticipated. Jill gets into college out West, leaving Matt behind on the East Coast. Thus begins their long distance relationship. They lead separate lives and make similar changes without telling each other: Matt gets a glass eye and starts working out while Jill gets a new wardrobe and goes on a diet. Suddenly normalized, Matt goes to a party and hits on chicks while Jill attracts the attention of frat boy hottie Patrick (Lachlan Buchanan), who went to high school with her. His mean girl pals were not very nice.
Matt and Jill’s metamorphoses clash when he visits her six months later and they discover that their natural connection is now strained and forced. What’s worse, they bring out something ugly in each other. Is this the death knell for their relationship?
Written and directed by MacAllister-McDonald, Some Freaks is impressive even with its flaws, especially for a first time full length feature. The story and the characters recall John Hughes and Todd Solondz, but this is by no means mere imitation or an update of either. I like MacAllister-McDonald’s straightforward and unsentimental view. Yes, much of what happens here is predictable; however, there are enough twists that I didn’t see coming to keep it interesting if not fresh. The actors put a lot of heart into their characters, and it shows—even Buchanan, whose Patrick is underdeveloped and not entirely believable.
I happened to see Some Freaks on April Fool’s Day with my teenage nephew. All things considered, I couldn’t have planned it better.
With Marin Ireland, John Thorsen, Sylvia Kates, Devon Caraway, Brian Semel, Nikki Massoud, Stephen Thorne, Shannon Hartman
Production: Half Jack Productions, Mountview Creative
Distribution: Good Deed Entertainment
Screening followed by a live Q and A with Ian MacAllister-McDonald, Lily Mae Harrington, and Ely Henry
(Tower City Cinemas) B
Cleveland International Film Festival