‘Matt & Max’ sounds beautifully reminiscent of the films that shot Dolan to stardom.
Ever the busy bee, Xavier Dolan is already thinking about his eighth feature film. His seventh movie, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, is still in the final stages of post-production. But according to The Hollywood Reporter, Dolan has the script finalized for Matt & Max, a gay love story about two best friends who fall for each other.
This is especially exciting for fans of Dolan’s earlier work, as it feels like more of a throwback to his first couple of features. Starting out as a teenager writing and directing his wildly-successful debut film, I Killed My Mother, Dolan has explored gay stories throughout his career, whether explicitly or implicitly. Gay identity hasn’t been a part of Dolan’s recent filmography, at least not in the way of I Killed My Mother or Heartbeats. But with Matt & Max, that’s set to return in a big way.
Per his own admission, one of Dolan’s primary concerns as a filmmaker has always been about looking at society’s biases in construing gayness and its representations. Even if the final product diverges towards different focal points (such as family drama, which his last two films have explored extensively), the underlying concept remains the same. Since landing a role in Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, Dolan says he’s ready “to go back to writing a script about characters who are gay.” Dolan adds:
“I have been confronted with such mature material, like ‘Boy Erased,’ ‘Call Me by Your Name’ and ‘God’s Own Country,’ and that gave me the desire to talk about homosexuality from an adult — and not a post-adolescent — point of view, and to talk about my generation and my friends and friendships. It made me want to write about two best friends falling in love who had never realized they could have a preference for men. I want to talk about true friendship and true love.”
I’ve never been one to focus specifically on Dolan’s age when it comes to his films. Perhaps it’s because I’m of that same generation. Any understanding and identification with his work seem doubly powerful in light of feeling understood by someone close to my age; someone far more fluent than myself at expressing emotions that cut deep. But in the midst of growing up — both for him and me — it truly feels like the right time to explore relationships in adulthood. It may be a comeback to themes and characters that Dolan has explored in the past, but not in the same manner of execution.
For example, Heartbeats is also about friends and relationships, albeit ones that are portrayed in a radically exaggerated, comical fashion. The film is about an insufferable love triangle where two best friends seek to outdo each other for a third party’s affection, and in doing so, they hurt one another. Thankfully, not irreparably, as true love comes about in friendships renewed. But by the end of Heartbeats, it’s debatable if the characters learned anything at all.
What makes Matt & Max even sound so different and exhilarating is the potential deconstruction of the childishness in Heartbeats. The commentary won’t have to run counter to what’s presented onscreen. I’m getting the implication that Matt & Max will be a more grounded film, and that’s very much welcomed. As Dolan fans can attest, his tendency to indulge in stylization doesn’t dull the very real emotions we experience while watching his movies.
This is exactly what Dolan plans to achieve, and we’re all aboard. If his words about the film’s planned fall production are anything to go by, Matt & Max “would be a combination of Tom at the Farm, aesthetically, and Mommy in terms of energy and spirit.” Dolan will also star as Max. He will also reunite with Anne Dorval, who will once again play his mother (as she did in his debut feature). If that’s not an indication of going back to his roots — in the best possible way — I don’t know what is.
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