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July 27, 2016

Fourth Man Out

by Franz Patrick


Fourth Man Out (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

LGBTQ movies are usually solely about the person coming out of the closet. A case can be made that “Fourth Man Out,” written by Aaron Dancik and directed by Andrew Nackman, is an exception to the expected because although it is about a man revealing to his best friends that he is gay, the story is equally about the people receiving the news. Despite being a comedy, the picture surprises in that it is able to hit honest, dramatic moments that feels exactly right for the story being told. There are even moments when chuckles simultaneously occur or are followed immediately by painful truths and implications.

On his 24th birthday, Adam (Evan Todd) plans to tell his three closest friends (Parker Young, Chord Overstreet, Jon Gabrus), who are straight and every much “bro,” that he is gay. He fears that by coming out to them, their friendship would change and he would no longer be part of the group considering they have been accustomed to making gay jokes and saying certain phrases, albeit generally harmless ones, from time to time. Adam is right: The dynamic of the group will change inevitably but not exactly in ways he expected.

The material is willing to show how heterosexual males might react in real life if they found out that one of buddies is gay. There is denial, disbelief, and fear of being wanted “in that way,” but it is almost miraculous that these feelings are pulled off with charm and grace. We understand right away why they might be feeling this way especially because, even though they live in upstate New York, they live in a small town where it might as well be a bubble.

Adam’s friends are very much good-natured, but it is interesting to observe at which point they decide to be onboard, to make more of an effort so that Adam would not feel awkward following his life-changing revelation. Each of them is given a superficial but amusing coping mechanism in the meantime. Particularly funny is Overstreet’s character, Nick, deciding to read up on the fluidity of sexuality and learning about hookup apps like Grindr.

At first, Nick’s attempts are meant to camouflage his uncomfortable feelings around Adam. Later on, he actually shows genuine interest in the topics he reads about. It would be interesting to see Overstreet fare in a modern silent picture because his comic timing with body language and facial expressions is on point here.

The heart of the picture is Adam’s relationship with his best best friend—I enjoyed that it is also honest about the fact that even within one’s best friend circle, one usually has a main go-to person—which is a tricky thing to pull off without relying on the same clichés and outcomes. Instead, it uses an expected strand like Chris deciding to help Adam find the right guy to date while dealing with looking for the right girl to date himself. He is ready for a serious relationship. Credit to the writer for finding a way to find a different spin on a trite subplot. It is suggested that Chris relates to Adam not only because they are friends but, more importantly, he recognizes a loneliness in Adam that he himself wrestles with despite partaking in serial dating and hookups.

There is a maturity about the picture regardless of its characters’ occasional immaturity. This is because the material is not afraid to tackle real feelings expressed among men who share a strong bond. Jokes just happen to be dispersed throughout. Compare this to mainstream films about coming out. The latter is likely to be louder, more colorful, cruder, meaner, and more prone to unfunny caricatures. A lighter touch goes a long way.

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