Elliot Loves (2012)
★★ / ★★★★
“Elliot Loves,” written and directed by Terracino, starts off on the wrong foot. Ten minutes into it, in which the title character hooks up with another man in a gay club, it feels like we are watching Pre-Acting 101; almost everything about it is so bad that I wondered if the picture was pornographic in nature. I actually anticipated seeing someone on his knees the very next scene. However, the film is able to achieve some solid footing somewhere in the middle as it attempts to balance humor and seriousness without sacrificing sass.
The trajectory of the story offers nothing new. We follow two strands, Elliot as a nine-year-old (Quentin Araujo) and a twenty-one-year-old (Fabio Cosaprado), and learn what has come to shape the latter’s perception of the world and what he hopes to gain from it. While this is an effective approach for character studies, it does not always work here because the adult Elliot’s experiences in New York City are not as strong as his counterpart’s.
What makes young Elliot’s life so interesting is his tricky relationship with his mother (Elena Good), only twenty-five who also happens to have an intimidating boyfriend. The interactions between mother and son, especially when food is involved, can be tender and amusing but when the conversations turn dark and words cut, they cut deep and leave psychological scars. Clearly, the screenplay has a defined vision. Notice that when Elliot and his mother fight, it is almost like watching two siblings argue.
When the camera’s attention turns to the adult Elliot, the material loses intrigue. It is partly due to diminishing returns: Elliot meets some guy, they sleep together, and the relationship lasts less than a week. While understandable that the point of the story revolves around a person trying to find the sort of love he did not receive as a child, the idea of Elliot sleeping around gets tiring eventually. In addition, Cosaprado is not well-equipped to communicate the more subtle emotions of his character. He is good at playing it over-the-top, but when the quieter moments arrive, there is static in what should be communicated with clarity.
I know people like Elliot. If the material were more honest and discerning, it would not had solely focused on the romantic aspect. In general, people with issues similar to Elliot tend to get clingy with all sorts of relationships. I wanted to know about adult Elliot’s relationship with his friends. He appears to have some. Also, early on in the picture, his aunts are introduced. Whatever happened to very outspoken, hilarious, take-no-prisoners Aunt Carmen (Elaine del Valle)?
Still, I enjoyed certain parts of “Elliot Loves” because the Dominican-American culture can be felt with consistency. On that department, it is anything but bland.