Gregg Araki's subversive drama about a group of friends who live in California and struggle with their emotional and sexual ups and downs was designed as a blunt political statement when it came out in 1993. It was a manifesto against the heterosexual mainstream which disregarded the disenfranchised gay community. Araki’s semi-documentary aesthetic focuses on the seemingly ordinary lives of the ensemble of characters and fills their existence with very common themes of existential confusion which were the landmark of the so-called New Queer Cinema of the 90’s. It is a film about young people searching for their own identity in a world that appears to be hostile to their life styles and sexual orientation.
As we are watching Totally F***ed Up nearly 20 years after its premiere one’s mind tends to wonder how much the world of film has changed in years past. But instead of turning this review into a socio-political debate, I would instead like to focus on the contemporary cinematic representations of the LGBT community.
Queer cinema has recently undergone a sort of a renaissance. With films like Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right, cinema learned not only how to assimilate gay characters into their standard narrative, but also how to make these representations attractive for mass audiences. As the homosexual characters started becoming more and more visible in mainstream cinema, it could be suggested that the reality represented in Totally F***ed Up really has changed for the better (at least in Hollywood). Last year alone has brought us a number of important feature films and documentaries that makes the supposition of gay themed films gaining popularity among the cinemagoers extremely feasible. Many of these films not only gained positive reception from the masses, but also critical acclaim throughout a number of film festivals where they were showcased. But what is most essential is that Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Becoming Chaz, David Weissman and Bill Weber’s We Were Here, Dee Rees’ Pariah, Sabine Bernardi’s Romeos and Andrew Heigh’s Weekend all have very important stories to tell. All of these stories deal with a recovery from a painful past, while looking to a more hopeful and positive future. It is also worth noticing that Araki's Totally F***ed Up has its re-release on DVD in the UK almost simultaneously with Kaboom, his latest feature. In Kaboom Araki seems to be more optimistic as the issues that used to trouble him so much appear to take a backseat. Kaboom is nothing but a thrilling comedy which unlike Totally F***ed Up makes an aesthetical rather than political statement.
And yet the fact that Araki's Totally F***ed Up deserves a re-release is a suggestion in itself that things aren't where they are supposed to be, that the struggle for equality is far from over. The pain and disappointment that fills Totally F***ed Up still feels very contemporary. For example, the main character’s suicide is a reminder of the tragic victims of bullying and abuse who have taken their lives last autumn in the US. The painful process of growing up so uniquely represented in the film makes Araki’s Totally F***ed Up a timeless masterpiece which will be re-watched and enjoyed by generations to come.
With just a bunch of trailers and the director's commentary, the release isn't exactly bursting with extras but as this lets you get your hands on an exquisitely remastered version of the film, the DVD becomes a must-have for all of Gregg Araki's fans.
Totally F***ed Up, dir. Gregg Araki
IMDB Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108366/
Star Rating: 5