No matter how hard you try, there’s no escaping the topic of sex. Even though it’s prevalent in most movies, music, TV shows, books, and video games, it’s tough for many of us to talk about sex. And that is a huge problem.
Most human beings are hard-wired to desire sex. Part of becoming an adult means coming to understand your budding sexuality. For most, this awkward phase happens during adolescence as they blunder through a series of lovers to figure out what works (and what doesn’t).
Most coming-of-age flicks treat characters’ horny and debaucherous teen years as something we all experience. Come As You Are, from director Richard Wong poses the question: what happens to people who go through life with less ways of exploring their sexuality? Wong’s dramedy follows a group of young-ish men on a quest to get laid. What sets Come As You Are apart from other sex-romp movies is that its three lead characters have disabilities.
Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer) is a quadriplegic who lusts for his physical therapist. Scotty’s biggest hurdle in life isn’t his inert body; it’s that he’s a dick who doesn’t play well with others. Still a virgin at 24-years-old, caregivers are the only people regularly touching his junk.
Scotty discovers a brothel called Le Chateau Paradis that caters to men with special needs. The only problem is that it’s located all the way in Montreal, Canada. He rounds up a couple of cohorts to split the cost on a secret road-trip to Le Chateau Paradis. There is Matt (Hayden Szeto), an attractive (and well-adjusted) former boxer who is on the outs with his girlfriend. And Mo (Ravi Patel), Scotty’s legally blind pal who may worry himself to death before they even cross the border.
The trio hires the tough as nails driver Sam (Gabourey Sidibe) to get them to their destination without letting her in on the secret. Complicating matters are Scotty and Matt’s over-protective parents who want to track the men down and bring them home.
Somehow the casting team opted for three non-disabled leads. I don’t believe they couldn’t find at least one disabled actor to play a lead character. Hollywood won’t cast disabled actors as leads in mainstream movies. So, when you have a film custom-tailored for people with disabilities, it’s unfathomable to pass them up for actors who can book work in almost any other type of feature. Not doing so is a tone-deaf move that will turn many people off this movie on principle alone.
Come As You Are isn’t going to knock your socks off on a technical level. The uninspired score sounds like the stock music in Garage Band, and the cinematography is dull and by-the-numbers. The film’s raunch-factor is even tame when compared to other sex-romp comedies. But Come As You Are isn’t without its charms.
Erik Linthorst’s screenplay may be predictable and bordering on corny, but it works because the film tracks as deeply earnest. The three main characters may find themselves in comical situations, but they’re not treated as jokes. All three men have issues to work through beyond getting some action. This story is at its best when these characters challenge themselves, express their vulnerabilities, and finally begin to grow.
Come As You Are is inspired by the story of Asta Philpot, whose exploits were adapted into the Belgian film Hasta La Vista in 2011. It’s upsetting that even after a decade, people in Asta’s position are still fighting the same battle. It’s heartbreaking to consider how many people like Scotty are out there in the world missing out on one of life’s great pleasures because of all the prudish taboos regarding sex.
Come As You Are is full of clichés yet refreshingly attentive to an under-served audience. Much like Ben Lewin’s 2012 feature The Sessions, the film challenges us to re-examine our rigid preconceptions of sex work, as well as the men seeking its services. With a cast of memorable characters who engage in plenty of hijinks, Come As You Are delivers a sex-positive road-trip comedy that is as silly as it is sweet.