‘That’s Not Us’: Frameline Review

That's Not Us Still - H 2015
WCS Productions

That's Not Us Still - H 2015

A trying LGBT-meets-mumblecore indie 

Writer-director William C. Sullivan’s second feature plays Frameline and Outfest

There's an island off the coast of New York famous for its pristine white beaches and preservationist mentality, with cars, jet skis and obnoxiously loud tourists strictly prohibited. But residents should have erected a giant “NO KVETCHING” sign before the cast and crew of the grating indie relationship dramedy That’s Not Us decided to come ashore.

An improvised labor of love that was shot over eight days during the fall offseason, writer-director William C. Sullivan’s sophomore feature brings three 20-something couples – gay, lesbian and straight – to the isle for a weekend of romantic squabbles, sexual pining and cringe-worthy dialogue that normally wouldn’t survive a first table read. Some of it is salvaged by decent performances and a rather fluid directorial style, but don’t expect to find these vacationers far outside the festival circuit, where they’ve already made a stop at San Francisco's Frameline and will next hit L.A.’s Outfest.

Arriving on land for a few days of swimming, cooking and you-know-what-ing, the six lovebirds soon find their paradise lost as various calamities rise to the surface: James’s (Mark Berger) and Spencer’s (David Rysdahl) plans are thwarted by the latter being accepted to graduate school in far away Chicago; Alex (Sarah Wharton) and Jackie (Nicole Pursell) haven’t had sex in ages, and the former’s decision to bring along a “rainbow dong” isn’t helping matters; Liz (Elizabeth Gray) and Dougie (Tommy Nelms) are still in their carnal honeymoon phase, but when Dougie admits he doesn’t know how to ride a bike, it drives a wedge between them.

These are what are known as “First World Problems,” though they nearly ruin everyone’s weekend, with nonstop banter revealing each couple’s particular issue, along with their underlying desire to remain together. Yet all the passive-aggressive conversations – which the actors apparently improvised off a rough story outline (written by Sullivan and DP Derek Dodge) – are hardly convincing, including cliches like “Let’s be in the moment” and “Just tell me how you f---ing feel!” and such zingers as “I’m bed dead” and “Lesbians don’t get boners. Maybe that’s the problem.”

Despite such shortcomings, the performances are adequate in places, with Berger and Rysdahl faring best – mostly because their characters have a sense of humor. The filmmakers also make strong use of their picturesque setting, with Dodge capturing the many walk-and-talks in colorful widescreen – although that’s hardly enough to make up for what’s actually being said.

Does anyone know when the next boat leaves?

Production companies: WCS Productions, Roger Dodger
Cast: Mark Berger, Nicole Pursell, Elizabeth Gray, Sarah Wharton, David Rysdahl, Tommy Nelms
Director: William C. Sullivan
Screenwriters: William C. Sullivan, Derek Dodge
Producers: Mark Berger, Sarah Wharton
Executive producers: Derek Dodge, William C. Sullivan
Director of photography: Derek Dodge
Production designer: Nicole Pursell
Editor: William C. Sullivan
Composer: Xander Singh

No rating, 97 minutes