CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Review — Creepy, Not Cool

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CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Review

by Lisa Johnson Mandell

call me by your name reviewAmidst all the rapturous kudos and awards nominations poured out upon the popular indie film Call Me By Your Name, including eight nominations for Critics Choice Awards from my own group, the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), doesn’t it bother anyone that it’s a film about an adult having an affair with a minor? In many places, including the U.S., that’s called statutory rape, and people have lost their jobs and reputations for a lot less recently.

Call Me By Your Name is the story of Oliver, a 24-year-old graduate student (a miscast Armie Hammer, who is 31 and looks every day of it) having an affair with Elio, (Timothée Chalametthe precocious yet confused 17-year-old son of Oliver’s professor. If this were to happen today in real life, Oliver would be thrown out of his graduate program and banned from academia for all time.

You’d think that given the current cultural climate. this particular theme would be reviled, rather than embraced. Even though it’s a consensual affair and the word “love” is bandied about, am I alone in finding it creepy?

We should overlook the ickiness of a powerful adult indulging in a relationship with an inexperienced kid, perhaps because 1984 was a more innocent time? Because it’s a same sex relationship, and it’s politically incorrect to scrutinize that? Because it takes place in Italy, where statutory rape is not a thing? Maybe since there are only supposed to be seven years between Elio and Oliver, it’s okay?

Or perhaps it’s because Hammer and Chalamet are beautiful. I doubt the film would have even been released if Oliver was played by an overweight actor with a neck beard, or if the part of Elio had been written for a vulnerable teenage girl. Should gender and/or beauty excuse all? 

Yes, the performances are superb, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s cinematography is stunning, and Luca Guadagnino’s direction is tender, if a bit languid at times.

But I find it strangely hypocritical that Hollywood is so willing to celebrate the behavior on film that it so vehemently condemns in real life. What I’d really like to see is the sequel, 30 years later, when Elio expands the #MeToo movement to the ivory towers of academia (where sexual abuse and discrimination have been rampant for decades) and plants his foot firmly on the necks of those arrogant dons.

I’m going to respectfully disagree with my critic colleagues on this one. Call Me By Your Name is creepy, not cool.

Rated R

2 Hours 10 Minutes

Get times and tickets at Fandango.com.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Review

by Lisa Johnson Mandell @HomeInHollywood

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME Review

by Lisa Johnson Mandell

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

6 Comments

  1. Sherrill on December 30, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    Lisa,
    Thank you for speaking to this alarming disconnect . Where in anyone’s view or reality is it ok for an adult to seduce a child ? And yes, young teenage males can be victims just as easily as young girls . I am a movie buff that will not be seeing this film no matter how many awards it wins . Thank you for being courageous enough to stand up and critique with a social conscience. In your words this premise is just plain creepy and unacceptable !

  2. Marj on January 4, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    I totally agree, this film was creepy. The hairy legs of (31 year old Oliver) wrapped around the very young looking and acting 17 year old Elio. The book apparently depicted the characters having a 7 year diff in age….Oliver (Armie Hammer) looks every one of his 31 Years while Elio looks about 15. Yuck

  3. Scott on January 29, 2018 at 9:49 am

    Age of consent is 16, character is 17 and Marj, sorry you don’t like hairy legs.

    • Michael on March 4, 2018 at 8:30 pm

      Age of consent in Az, CaA, DE, FL, ID, ND, UT and WI is 18. Age differential element of statutory rape would add a few other states.
      The issue is can a 17 yr consent in view of the age/power differential.
      https://aspe.hhs.gov/system/files/pdf/75531/report.pdf
      So, the issue is more nuanced.

  4. Pam on February 5, 2018 at 10:37 am

    So glad you’re addressing this. I’m baffled why no one else discusses this. Even in Italy where the age of consent is 14, there is only supposed to be a 3 year difference in age for minors.

  5. DB on March 30, 2018 at 10:00 am

    Finally searched the net for any references to potential miscasting in CMBYN and found your review. It amazes me that so many people found Armie Hammer a suitable actor for this role. I agree with you that Hammer [31] looks his age and why the casting agent/director couldn’t see this (especially when Timothee Chalamet [21] looks barely 17) is mind boggling. The age difference between the two characters in the original story is 8 years, but Hammer looks at least 10, if not 15 years older. Furthermore, it seems improbable (not matter how liberal one’s parents may be) that they would condone this – again with the point of how the age difference reads on screen. Are there parents out there that would be OK with a man (who looks 30) bedding their 17 year old daughter (and under their own roof?) If a younger actor (or at least one that looks 24-25) had been cast, I think it would have been a much better movie. (Are things that bad in Hollywood or NYC that Hammer was the best and most suitable choice?)
    I actually liked the movie a lot and found it very moving (especially TC’s performance), but the way the actor’s respective ages read on screen left me uneasy, especially when we don’t any more ammunition for homophobes and ignorants that equate homosexuality with pedophilia.

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