Based loosely on a 2011 Belgian work called Hasta La Vista, as well as the life of wheelchair-bound disabilities activist Asta Philpot (who endorses this film), Come As You Are is director Richard Wong’s funny, very R-rated (mostly for language) road movie/sexual coming-of-age tale about three disabled friends who concoct a scheme to escape their predicable, protected lives and make their way to a Montreal brothel that caters to those with special needs in order to lose their respective virginities.
Sparing none of the details of their individual lifestyles, Come As You Are features Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer from Chasing the Blues) as the group’s foul-mouthed, quadriplegic ringleader, who also happens to be an amateur rapper and all-around asshole. He enlists the middle-aged blind Mo (Ravi Patel, Long Shot) and a newcomer to their rehab facility, Matt (Hayden Szeto, Edge of Seventeen) to help pay for the cost of the experience, which includes a van and driver (Gabourey Sidibe as Sam). The film makes it clear that these men are escaping something as well as running toward this right of passage. They all live with and are cared for by well-meaning but over-bearing parents (including Scotty’s mom, played by Janeane Garofalo), but they crave the kind of touch different from someone who is related to them.
Ultimately and not surprisingly, the film isn’t about what happens at the brothel—they each have very different experiences there, both emotionally and physically—but instead gets a great deal of mileage on the story of their planning and journey to Montreal. There are bonding moments, times of doubt, and their parents do catch up to them at one point but even they come to see the value in what they’re doing. Individually, I’m not sure I could handle watching just one of these characters make this trip, but there is something about this particular collection of attitudes, sensibilities and behavior that makes this combo worth joining on their journey.
In their own way, these three are highly likable but each one has character flaws that make them feel more like fully realized humans and less like stereotypes. The lessons learned here about manhood, sexuality and what they are capable of with their disabilities are more practical and less profound, and that makes these guys more relatable at every turn. Come As You Are is surprisingly moving, but without any clunky signs of self-pitying going on. It’s inspirational without trying to be uplifting in a phony way, and in the end, the movie succeeds because we enjoy spending time with these three goofballs. I’m not sure I’m fully onboard with the film’s final sequence involving Scotty rapping, but by that point, the film has earned enough respect that it’s easy to overlook what the moment lacks.
The film opens today for a weeklong run at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by becoming a patron. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support!