October 24, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

‘Show Me What You Got’ review: Polyamorous sex drama fizzles

Ah, to be young, beautiful and uninhibited in Los Angeles. In director-cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko’s ambitious indie drama “Show Me What You Got,” three soulful twentysomethings bare their hearts and bodies to one another in sleek, polyamorous European-flavored style.

Marcello (Mattia Minasi) is in town ostensibly taking “industry” meetings for his father, an Italian soap opera megastar, but really just wants to have fun. Frustrated by his demanding dad — who expects his son to actually attend the meetings — Marcello bonds with Nassim (Neyssan Falahi), a French-Iranian actor/personal trainer searching for meaning, on the pier in Malibu. The next day, the young men meet free-spirited waitress/photographer/conceptual artist Cristina (Cristina Rambaldi), and they quickly become inseparable.

Before anyone has slept together, the couch-surfing Nassim and Cristina, who has recently been sleeping in an all-night Korean spa, accept Marcello’s offer to share an apartment paid for by his father’s credit card. A trip to Joshua Tree consummates the threesome’s relationship just in time for the idyllic, unsustainable fantasy to be intruded upon by reality.

The cast is appealing and the performances have a fizzy buoyancy: the boyishly handsome Minasi infuses the callow Marcello with a disarming cluelessness; Falahi’s Nassim is a convincing thinker — imagine a bearded John Lennon with the physique of a boxer; and Rambaldi, as the playfully seductive Cristina, lends the arrangement a degree of credibility. Who wouldn’t be smitten?

But the film’s higher aims never take hold. The breeziness feels at odds with implied gravitas. An omniscient narrator tells us what each character is feeling, negating any subtext. What’s presented as a pure form of love too often feels like handsome strangers taking an erotic tumble in a fragrance ad. Cvetko’s black-and-white photography, though gorgeous, reinforces that sense through a boilerplate view of L.A. — Hollywood, beach, downtown, desert.

Written by Cvetko and producer David Scott Smith, the film pauses for philosophical interludes that never quite escape the feeling that the words came from a pen (or word processor) rather than from fully-formed characters; nor does it explore the emotional complexity of the romantic situation. Despite the obvious influence of the French New Wave, “Show Me What You Got” is ultimately closer to “Summer Lovers” than “Jules and Jim.”

‘Show Me What You Got’

In French, English and Italian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Playing: Available Feb. 12, Level Forward Live (with premiere events) and Laemmle Virtual Cinema