Our age of World Wide Web-enabled wariness of constraining regimes (political and sexual) has recently produced a slew of cinematic straight male characters who rebel against, if not slip out of, the braces of idealized and neat monogamous heterosexuality. (The lovely Everything Strange and New and the unpleasant Drawing with Chalk come to mind.) They’re Out of the Business pits Jason (Donal Ward) and Splick (Eric Schaeffer) as has-been indie filmmakers attempting to jolt their lives out of existential misery one last time. Jason just broke up with his girlfriend and moved in with his lesbian sister, the Lithuanian guy she married for Green Card purposes, and her girlfriend, while Splick just lost his TV gig and moves back in with his parents. Through Splick’s insistence and Jason’s slow acquiescence, they reunite with plans to make a great movie again. But, really, all they do is discover the wonders of online dating (a decade too late), discuss how the older they get the hotter fat girls become, and have offensive arguments about women’s reason for being in the world. For Splick, “if we could shit all the babies out all in one man machine it would have solved everything.” Even if he “fucking love[s] women” because they are soft, pretty, and “it feels really good when they put their mouth on your dick.”
This is the kind of film whose impeccably steady shots and perfectly ordinary televisual aesthetic feel at odds with its subject matter. It’s like heading to a poetry slam-hosting punk café and finding a Starbucks interior. Instead of instituting compulsory tripod usage and indulging in cringe-inducing shots of forlorn white straight men walking on busy sidewalks to the sound of trite guitar strumming, They’re Out of the Business could have taken its cue for something like the “undecorated” movement. This new design approach goes for authenticity and frugality, developing its own visual language, instead of trying to imitate “the polished work of a master.”
They’re Out of the Business does reflect straight men’s impossible position of attempting to be decent people when the very concept of manhood is inherently dependent on the disenfranchisement of women. And while Woody Allen’s finer work is clearly a muse for the directors, who also star in the film, they share none of Allen’s intellectual acuity. We only see the surface of these men. Their failure is generic and their neuroses unexposed. And there’s nothing riveting about well-composed neurotics.