The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green
Why is Ethan Green getting such a bad rap? The film version of Eric Orner’s long-running comic strip has been slammed by critics (at last count, a 29% percent on Rotten Tomatoes) with comments like "The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Then Green is another step back for the gay community," (Slant Magazine); "[A] most unfabulous, unfunny, and unwatchable embarrassment." (Village Voice); and this "mostly unfunny - and unfabulous - trifle never rises above sitcom level" (the New York Times). Yet this comic adaptation of Eric Orner’s long-running comic strip has much to recommend in its sweet, likeable, if (admittedly) sit-commish tone. Some people need to lighten up - it’s based on a comic strip, for Christ sake: why shouldn’t character talk as if they had bubbles over their heads? It doesn’t mean their bubbleheads.
The judgmental tone of many of the reviews is a bit disturbing - do the same critics take Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan for being vapid and uninteresting (in The Break-Up) as they are saying about the characters in this film? Perhaps they do, and these characters are vapid and uninteresting to them. Personally I found them engaging enough for 90-minutes. I admit my expectations weren’t too high, so I was pleasantly surprised by the Paul Rudnick-like tone in David Vernon’s script, which captures the cheeky style of Orner’s comic strip about a twenty-something gay man and his romantic foibles.
In his narrative, Ethan (Daniel Letterle) has recently broken up with Leo (David Monahan), a bookstore manager who also owns the house (Chez Ryan, named after Meg) Ethan lives in with his lesbian girlfriend Charlotte (Shanola Hampton). At the onset, Ethan meets Kyle (Diego Serrano), an ex-pro ballplayer who has recently come out of the closet after the ballplayer beans him. They begin to date, until Ethan is distracted by Punch (Dean Shelton), a randy twink. True to form, Ethan screws everything up when he breaks off with Kyle, and attempts to reconcile with Leo, who wants to rent his house and evict Ethan, while dating Punch. Playing the roles of his mentors are his mother Harper, a gay event planner (Meredith Baxter who debunks her sitcom mom mystique with lines like "And bring Mr. Fuckbuddy"), and the Hat Sisters (Joel Brooks and Richard Riehle,) modeled on the local figures who supply some of the sharpest one-liners.
George Bamber’s direction has a bright, frothy surface, and there are numerous clever touches along the way, including flashbacks to Ethan childhood and an animated sequence courtesy of Orner. The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green (it steers clear of his professional life; in fact, it barely seems rooted in the real world at all.) is reminiscent of such films as Jeffrey and the Broken Heart’s Club in its mix of light-hearted satire and sentimental romance; which, in the scheme of gay comedies, aren’t such bad models to follow. Letterle (best-known as the straight boy in Camp) conveys Ethan’s bewildered nature perfectly well; and there are appropriately broad turns (this is a comic strip) from Serrano and, especially, Shelton, whose horny twink grows on you as the film continues. In one of the film’s smartest moves, Monahan is made more appealing as the film continues, as Ethan and he slowly move to reconciliation. Yes, the movie is that predictable. In fact there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before, but the screwball comedy-like spin given these cartoonish characters proves unexpectedly endearing - call it a guilty pleasure.