Heartbeats, the second feature from 21-year-old wunderkind Xavier Dolan, is an Instagram of the Way We Fuck Now--or, more precisely, the way gorgeously costumed and coiffed French-Canadian early twentysomethings fuck and/or fail to fuck, while tripping over their own misguided attempts to land in love.
The film, which opens at the Coral Gables Art Cinema this weekend, bounces between montages of faux-interviews with young lovelorns--shot with "documentary"-style jerky zooms, establishing that Dolan's interest in generational anthropology is more style than substance--and an equally superficial narrative dissecting the passive aggression of young lusters.
At a dinner party, Marie (Monia Chokri) points her gay bestie, Francis
(Dolan), toward Nicolas (Niels Schneider), a stranger wearing plastic
heart-shaped sunglasses with a halo of unkempt blond curls. "Who's the
Adonis?" she asks, her voice lilting just enough that she could pass off
the reference to the Greek beauty as ironic or not, depending on
He's just as ambiguously cool, and with neither friend brave enough to
admit their crush, both begin to casually woo Nicolas. The three hop
around Montreal together as an ostensibly platonic unit, Marie and
Francis laboring to hide their seduction tactics from each other while
transmitting the message to their common adored.
But which one does Nicolas want? Is he straight or gay, pansexual or
asexual? Francis and Marie obsessively catalog his every gesture and
aside, but the clues he drops only muddle the matter.
With Nicolas a closed book, the director fetishizes the ways in which
the friends-turned-rivals betray their hidden feelings. His slow-motion
montages set to dreamy torch songs mock chain-smoking retro-fashion
victim Marie and the emo Francis for sabotaging themselves by caring too
much. Next to Nicolas, a laconic mess, the over-styled would-be
seducers look like they're in drag.
If Dolan is able to derive a certain comic tension from the simple
threat of what could happen with these three in close quarters, he and
his co-actors often spoil the mystery of the unsaid with the tells on
their faces. When one pair is having a moment, Dolan inevitably trains
his camera on the knowing gaze of the one left out--never so perfectly as
when Nicolas lets a smirk slip while watching Francis and Marie fight
Too bad that smirk is the closest Dolan comes to any kind of insight
into his characters' behavior. From the dinner-party scene on, Dolan
defines them by what they look like and how they look at one another,
too often indulging in those gazes without critiquing them. An
undeniable triumph of artifice, Heartbeats acts as a kind of bizarro
fantasy mirror, aestheticizing and glamorizing the madness that arises
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from unrequited sexual obsession, as drunk on beauty and blind to truth
as its deluded singles.
Heartbeats screens Friday through April 14 at the Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables). Tickets cost $10. Visit gablescinema.com.