If you’d love to be a fly on the wall at a Joshua Tree vacation home peopled by two bland gay men as they wallow in frivolous drama, have make-up sex, and sip on white wine while talking about Harold and Maude and salt-water pools, Lazy Eye is for you. Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) is a fortysomething well-to-do graphic designer from Los Angeles who never quite forgot a New York fling, Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis), from almost two decades ago. Just as Dean starts struggling with his eyesight and decides to take a few days off, Alex contacts him out of the blue via an email with a very apt subject line: “Ghost from the past.” An impromptu invitation for Alex to join Dean in his vacation home turns into a very long session of reminiscing about the bliss of a pre-9/11 world, when New York was cool and gays had actual personalities, and mourning the fact that they never reconnected over the years, mostly because Alex has a zero online presence (he isn’t even on LinkedIn).
As if unable to sustain any nuanced grappling with the subject matter, writer-director Tim Kirkman’s teases us with the metaphorical possibilities of Dean’s eye problem in the first scene, and then all but drops the issue entirely. He also tries to emulate the kind of European art films that feature a minimal amount of characters in a single room as they engage in lofty conversation over espresso or wine—except that here there’s no substance or character development for so much talking to be taking place. We’re treated to a cringingly inane back and forth in which Kirkman tries to peg depth of character on Dean instead of having him earn it, which comes in the shape of unconvincing lines about Dean having been some kind of non-conformist Marxist in his youth with a fondness for cult films. Alex seems equally hollow as a character, as his boldest personality trait is having dared to leave New York City. To make matters worse, virtually all scene transitions are accompanied by generic piano notes, guitar strumming, or sappy songs.
As Dean and Alex gab, secrets are inevitably revealed, however anodyne they turn out to be. Lazy Eye, which begins with sex and ends with post-coital guilt, presents us with an implausibly moralistic world where seasoned gay men are naïve, clingy, impossibly romantic, and completely offended by the concept of unfaithfulness, as well as cigarette smoking. Within the logic of the film, settling into an airtight monogamy, ideally with children, is the ultimate goal for the properly prudish post-9/11 homosexual, for whom sex is inevitably marred with anxiety and guilt and a second home is a sort of compensation for the lack of a second lover. Even an instance of shade in this world is tainted with sanctimony, as when Dean chastises Alex for daring to be single and still not a homeowner: “It’s hard to have a kid if you’re not settled.”