Film Review: Anything at FilmOut San Diego

Written and directed by Timothy McNeil and featured at Film Out San Diego, Anything is a warm and thoughtful drama that examines some very big themes without taking the usual route through them. Not only is it centred on a middle-aged man, but it also features a main character whose gender identity is never defined because it doesn’t actually matter. No, this is a film about community and belonging, and it fiercely refuses to fit in a box.

Anything

The story focusses on Early (veteran character actor John Carroll Lynch), who is feeling deeply depressed after his beloved wife dies in a car accident. So he moves from rural Mississippi to Los Angeles to live with his sister Laurette (Maura Tierney), her husband Ted (Christopher Thornton) and their teen son Jack (Tanner Buchanan). California is a revelation for Early, but he also knows he needs to get away from Laurette’s cynicism. To her horror, he rents an apartment in Hollywood, surrounded by the usual misfit wannabe artists. He immediately befriends his next-door neighbour Freda (Matt Bomer in drag), a transgender hooker bursting with emotion and attitude. And downstairs there’s the aspiring young musician Brianna (Margot Bingham) and her junkie-rocker boyfriend David (Micah Hauptman).

The earthy, meandering narrative loosely settles on the offbeat connection between Early and Freda, an unlikely couple that discovers they have a lot more in common than they initially thought. The affection between them develops organically, expressed as much through long silences as the raw, honest dialogue. In his script, McNeil cleverly avoids the usual preachy pitfalls, never over-explaining thoughts or feelings, but making the emotions sharply resonant. He also beautifully captures the quirky nature of Hollywood life, where society’s cast-offs can shine even as they struggle to make ends meet. In this kind of place, strangers need to rely on each other to create make-shift families to replace the loved ones who have rejected them.

The actors fold themselves into this ambience beautifully. Lynch underplays Early from the start, conveying a series of conflicting emotions that lie just beneath the surface. Less concealed is his irritation at Laurette’s closed-mindedness, and Tierney plays her unapologetically as a woman who speaks her mind, even if it alienates those around her. But the most magnetic role goes to Bomer, who gets the chance to steal each scene as the sassy, emotive Freda. Casting him in the role is a bold move for the production, but the script refreshingly allows Freda to be herself, never identifying her as either a trans woman or a cross-dressing gay man.

This intriguing choice adds a purity to the growing affection between Freda and Early. And it of course adds fuel to Laurette’s wildly insensitive reactions. All of this will be reflected in the audience’s reaction to Anything: the story and characters are complex and disarming, provocative and moving. The collisions between these damaged people are never obvious. So as they work through them, they encourage us to reject our fears and make the most of love wherever we find it. In this case, love truly is just love, and it’s even more beautiful because it can’t be pigeonholed.

4 Stars

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Rich Cline

Rich Cline

Journalist
As a freelance journalist, Rich Cline has covered films and major events on five continents. The founding editor of Shadows on the Wall, he is vice chair of the London Film Critics' Circle, chair of the London Critics' Circle Film Awards, and a member of Fipresci, Online Film Critics Society and GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics. A native of Los Angeles, he grew up in Ecuador and has called London home since 1992.
Rich Cline

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