Nick Kroll And Andrew Rannells Are Those Gays Trying To Kill You

Mar 9, 2024

Adopting a baby can often be a long and grueling process. Finding a child up for adoption or an expecting mother who feels she’s a match is not for the faint of heart. So, when we first meet Dom (Nick Kroll) and Cole (Andrew Rannells), it’s hard not to have sympathy for them. Celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, the couple has spent three years attempting to start a family with little luck and, as we’ll eventually learn, a bit of tragedy thrown in for good measure. But as the events of “I Don’t Understand You” unfold, directors, screenwriters, and real-life partners Brian Crano and David Craig put forward an excellent case that perhaps this fictional pair aren’t the best prospective parents in the first place.
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Debuting at the 2024 SXSW Film Festival, “Understand You” finds Dom and Cole headed to Italy for what is supposed to be a dream vacation, but their minds are elsewhere. Despite the breathtaking views of Rome, they are waiting patiently for Candace (Amanda Seyfried, she has three scenes), a prospective mother, to contact them. Candace is due in a few weeks and still hasn’t decided who her child’s prospective new parents will be.
While in Rome, Dom and Cole have dinner with a family friend who insists that they cancel their long-in-the-works restaurant reservation in the countryside. Instead, he has set up a meal for them with a legendary cook who hasn’t worked in months but will reopen her kitchen just for them. Feeling pressured, the pair reluctantly agree. And how could they not? An old family friend has fitted them with a rental car and the promise of a night of authentic Italian dining they will never forget. On their way to this exclusive meal, they take a wrong turn and end up on the wrong dirt road. And that’s when things start to go off the rails because, as the title suggests,…they don’t speak Italian.
What follows afterward sees the film shift to a dark and deadly comedy reminiscent of 90s Indies such as “The Last Supper” or “The House of Yes.” And like both of those films, which chances are you haven’t even heard of (although see the former for Parker Posey alone), it doesn’t completely work. This is a genre that is notoriously difficult to crack. You either have to go full-bore comedy horror (see “Ready or Not”) or make the twist more circumstantial. “Understand You” wants it to play out as a comedy of errors. And, in hindsight, that might be even tougher to pull off.
To make this plausible, Crano and Craig attempt to set up a series of events that would make our gay heroes suspicious of everyone around them. There’s the porter at their countryside hotel who doesn’t realize they are a couple. Dom and Cole assume he’s potentially prejudiced against “the gays,” but in reality, he’s just embarrassed over his mistake and calls himself an “idiot.” And there is the confusion with the local farmer who helps them (sort of) get off that rainy-soaked private road. All while they are desperate to hear back from Candace with her final decision. But at that point, the movie needs you to believe both men can’t figure out what any of these non-English speaking Italians are communicating whatsoever and, therefore, start to make wild assumptions about what is going on around them. And we mean wild assumptions. Listen, “Understand” has screamed comedy from the beginning and you’d probably go along with it if the premise didn’t take a very unexpected and bloody turn.
Luckily, by the time the story flips, the filmmakers have some colorful characters up their sleeves to perk your interest including an almost completely unrecognizable Morgan Spector (of recent “The Guilded Age” fame) as a local Italian AAA employee and Eleonora Romandini (“The White Lotus”) as his charming and way too-polite fiancee. This is a movie that will live and die by its stars though. Kroll and Rannells have genuine chemistry, but they simply aren’t as funny as you’d hope and that comes down to the script. Perhaps the characters were too close to home for the filmmakers (the scenario was inspired by their real-life events), but if you’re gonna make Dom and Cole two Los Angeles gay men of a certain age, maybe lean into it a bit more? There should be more cutting zingers coming out of at least one of their mouths. Yes, we need to believe they could be good parents, but as constituted, they are sort of, well, the worst sort of gays, boring ones (and, trust me, I only note this from personal experience).
There is a kernel of an idea in Cano and Craig’s screenplay that’s worth exploring. The movie feels like it could or should be great, but it took a wrong turn somewhere on that dark road. Then again, maybe in 20 years, we’ll look back at it like “Supper” and “Yes” and appreciate it more even with its obvious flaws. Or, more likely, maybe not. (Oh, the on-location Italian vistas are pretty though.) [C+]

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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