Once upon a time the concept of taking a niche foreign film and adapting it into an English language piece for a wider audience was something reserved for the big boy powerhouse studios, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. This particular example comes through Samuel Goldwyn Films by the way of the 2011 Belgian picture Hasta la Vista. Having already been the subject of a Dutch remake in 2016, it is now having a third outing in the form of an American effort. I would have asked whether it might be third time lucky, but never having seen the first two, I have no source comparison!
Come As You Are tells the story of Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer), Matt (Hayden Szeto) and Mo (Ravi Patel), three acquaintances with varying levels of disability who decide to organise a covert trip to Canada. The reason for this trip? The mission of losing their respective virginities at a brothel that caters to their specialised needs. Working on a tight budget, the trio hire the services of driver Sam (Gabourey Sidibe) and her large van to smuggle them across the border, and what proceeds is a road trip comedy with more than a hint of melancholy peppered throughout.
Though I can’t say that I have ever really seen something specifically like Come As You Are before, there is a lot about the film that feels in keeping with some of the darker, more offbeat comedies that I enjoy. The humour in the film is quite sarcastic which is personally appealing, but on top of that there is also a layer of light heartedness and earnestness that helps to soften some of the sharper edges. For a film that is essentially a sex comedy, Come As You Are touches on a lot of sensitive and poignant issues in its brisk and breezy feeling runtime. Thanks to the American Pie generation of teen comedies we are all very familiar with the ‘seeking to lose one’s virginity’ narrative, but the circumstances of these central characters obviously throws something a little different into the mix, and it helps to make the story feel much more elevated than a simple road trip sex adventure.
In terms of the story, there aren’t really many surprises or unexpected turns within the narrative, all the seeds of the final third are planted extremely early on and the comfort of the viewing experience is in watching what you expect play out rather than being on the edge of your seat for any kind of shock. Come As You Are could have gone in a lot of different directions and opted for some deeper, more sensitive and revealing content, but the film’s decision to go for more of a ‘middle of the road’ tone in terms of vulgarity and anything of a graphic nature leaves the characters to shine rather than any voyeuristic temptation of exploring their various sex lives and disabilities.
Now on to the more questionable side of the film, the casting. From a pure talent side of things, there is no doubting that Grant Rosenmeyer, Hayden Szeto and Ravi Patel all put in great, emotive performances as Scotty, Matt and Mo, but here’s the thing, they are all able bodied actors. Of all the narratives in Hollywood to seek out a group of disabled artists to give opportunities, surely this was it? Rosenmeyer, Szeto and Patel are all great in their respective roles, but in this new age of filmmaking where more and more effort and emphasis is being put on casting suitable actors for suitable roles, this really feels like a missed opportunity to me.
As Sam, Gabourey Sidibe gives a fun if not particularly eventful performance, pretty much playing the ‘straight man’ for the three protagonists to bounce off of in their various ways. There is a good chemistry in general amongst the group, which is very fortunate because the bulk of the film is just conversations and set pieces between them in various combinations. Like I said, nobody does anything wrong on screen here, it’s just a shame actors with disabilities, for whatever reason, weren’t able to be included in the central roles.
Overall, Come As You Are is a solid enough comedy drama that touches on a few different issues that you probably won’t have seen in this road trip, sex comedy context before. It’s not going to change the world, and it’s probably not going be in the top twenty or so films you see this year, but it’s a fun watch that does leave you with something of a poignant, feel good vibe when credits roll. Missed opportunities in casting leave me on a little bit of a frustrated downer, but that aside, what is presented on screen is effective in the majority of ways that it intended to be.