Earnest teen-sexual-identity drama “Giant Little Ones” is not the movie it initially seems to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s much better than the movie it initially seems to be either.
Longtime best buddies Franky and Ballas (Josh Wiggins and Darren Mann) do almost everything together, from biking to high school to practicing with the swim team. As Franky’s 17th birthday approaches, just one thing seems to distinguish him from his friend: Ballas is sexually active, while Franky hasn’t yet slept with his girlfriend Priscilla (Hailey Kittle), despite her apparent willingness.
All that is supposed to change the night of Franky’s birthday party, which his implausibly indulgent mother (Maria Bello) has agreed to allow in her home, without adult supervision, until 1 a.m. But Priscilla, under orders from her mom, goes home early, and Franky and Ballas, both drunk, end up in bed together.
The next day, both of them freak out. Franky’s panic, at least in part, stems from his hostility toward his father (Kyle MacLachlan), who has recently left the family to live with a man. Ballas’s feelings are more unexplored. He simply becomes the story’s boogeyman, ready to brutalize his former friend — both physically and psychologically — if that’s what it takes to prove that Franky is gay, and he isn’t.
With his once closest friend now his tormentor, Franky turns to another former pal, Natasha (Taylor Hickson). She’s Ballas’s younger sister, as well as a social outcast, with a useful perspective on Franky’s fall from grace. Franky is also friendly with a transgender-curious girl called Mouse (Niamh Wilson), who goes to unusual lengths to put the “boy” in tomboy.
There are some amusing (and even poignant) moments between Franky and the two girls, who are the movie’s most interesting characters. But all the parents come across as stiff and hollow, and so does Ballas. It’s hard to imagine that he and Franky were ever close.
But here’s the real problem: “Giant Little Ones” is a coming-out drama in which no one actually comes out, with the exception of Franky’s dad, and that happens before the story even starts.
Perhaps writer-director Keith Behrman hopes to capture the sexual and gender fluidity of today’s adolescents. Aside from Mouse, however, all the teenage characters could have walked out of any high school flick made decades ago. Just about the only thing that marks this movie as contemporary is the relaxed attitude everyone has toward teenage alcohol consumption.
Set in an unnamed suburb — and filmed in a blandly affluent slice of Canada — “Giant Little Ones” is predictable in look, in feel and in sound (despite an elegant score by ambient- and world-music star Michael Brook). The plot may take an unexpected path, but that’s not enough to make Franky and Ballas’s story compelling. One scene suggests that Franky’s main problem with Priscilla is that she’s boring. Unfortunately, so is he.
R. At Landmark’s West End Cinema. Contains violence, sexual situations, obscenity, drugs and alcohol, all involving teens. 94 minutes.