Wolfe Video,

Eldar Rapaport

Murray Bartlett,
Daniel Dugan,
Adrian Gonzales,
Hillary Banks,
Brad Standley

Unrated, 105 minutes

The Other Woman
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online June, 2013

“It sucks that you have a boyfriend.”

When an ex comes back to town, observes a supporting player, there’s always trouble. That pretty much sums up August, the terrific debut feature film from writer / director Eldar Rapaport. Meet the ex, a very good looking man in his mid-30s. His name is Troy (Murray Bartlett). Five years earlier, Troy enjoyed a steamy summer love affair with a slightly younger man named Jonathan. Then, without warning, he dumped him and moved to Spain. Now he’s back in LA, his hometown, perhaps to stay. He calls Jonathan and is taken aback when another man answers the phone. “This is Raul… his boyfriend,” the man says, and then adds: “Troy… I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Troy and Jonathan (Daniel Dugan) meet for coffee. An awkward hug is exchanged. A close-up of Troy's hand on Jonathan’s back signifies, by the subtlest quiver, intense sexual desire. Troy is trying to hold back while, at the same time, taking eye contact to new levels. Jonathan is trying not to feel the attraction; Troy hurt him badly yet he is thrilled to see him again. As the sexual tension rises, Raul arrives to pick Jonathan up and a new tension replaces the old. Raul (Adrian Gonzalez) is friendly, and shakes Troy’s hand, but the look on his face says: leave my man alone. Troy watches as Jonathan rides away on the back of Raul’s motorcycle.

It is a foregone conclusion, otherwise there wouldn’t be a movie, that Troy and Jonathan will get it on again. What was surprising to me was how early it happens. (I had expected there to be a long tease for most of the film’s first hour.) Troy is staying, temporarily, at an old friend’s house. Troy partied there with Jonathan when they were lovers and it holds memories for both. The doorbell rings and it’s Jonathan. Each tries to be sociable, yet standoff-ish. They sit down on the couch, in awkward silence, and then suddenly they are all over each other. Within seconds, Troy is ripping off his shirt. But, as quickly as it began, Jonathan puts on the brakes and abruptly leaves.

A week passes. Troy is out with his friend, Devin, who chides him for calling Jonathan. (What were you thinking?) He asks what happened to Miguel in Barcelona. “We just sleep together,” Troy replies. They order drinks and, lo and behold, Raul is the bartender. Raul is friendly and trusting, and tells Troy that he always wanted to meet him. He’s happy that Troy and Jonathan are friends again; it “helps the healing.” Raul is too trusting. The next day, Troy asks Jonathan to look at a house with him. Before the afternoon is over, they are humping each other’s brains out.

Troy’s brother calls him “the other woman.” Troy insists that he is more than that but what, then, is he? We don’t learn a lot about his background but all we need to know is that Troy is a man who doesn’t know what he wants and can’t make up his mind about anything. He tells Raul that he’s not trying to get Jonathan back, but then why did he call him when he got back to LA? While seeming contrite, he also blames what happened five years ago on “bad timing.” You want to hate him but you can’t. How can anyone so selfish and clueless also be so charismatic? Jonathan will tell Troy that he loves Raul, and all Troy can reply with is “Well, that fuckin’ sucks.”

Jonathan finds it all “terribly confusing.” He is already feeling conflicted about moving in with Raul permanently, and Troy’s presence isn’t helping matters. Lust can be a force of nature. Troy is hardly trustworthy boyfriend material; Jonathan already knows that all too well. But he’s also fallen under his spell. He begins to turn into Troy. He starts to smoke again (Troy smokes) and, when Troy buzzes his hair, Jonathan lets his ex do the same to him. “Raul is going to kill me,” he says as he rubs the stubble on his head. Hormones can be a terrible thing but he hasn’t forgotten how much Troy hurt him in the past, or how long it took to get over him. “We had a great summer,” Troy tells Jonathan. He replies, “And a terrible fall.”

Jonathan may be deceiving his man, but Raul isn’t above a little deceit himself. He has married their friend Nina so that he can stay in the country with Jonathan, and he bartends “under the table” while waiting for his immigration papers. Still, especially on a second viewing, Raul easily gets the lion’s share of sympathy. He has the most to lose in this situation should Jonathan impulsively run away with his ex.

LA is experiencing record temperatures and this is an apt metaphor for the rising heat between the two clandestine lovers. August is a very hot movie. While it might not be the most penetrating character study ever made, it certainly is successful at making the audience believe in their all-consuming lust. We enjoy the heat of the moment, without the psychoanalysis. As expected, all three of the leads are attractive, two of them hot, and the eye candy is abundant. Don’t forget, there’s a heat wave in LA and so there are ample opportunities to show Troy and Raul lounging around wearing only underwear or a towel.

Dialogue is kept to a minimum and August conveys emotions mostly through penetrating glances and body language. This is a very subtle movie; realistic without histrionics or overwrought melodrama. If this was a Hollywood blockbuster, the hunky, bearded Raul would probably be a hot blooded Spaniard hell bent on revenge. Here, he knows what is happening; he doesn’t like it but he understands it. “You both look alike now, don’t you?” is his only judgment when he sees his lover’s new buzzcut. There are also no contrived revelations about any of the characters that magically explain everything. August might not end with a bang but the conclusion satisfies. I was pleased with the way it ended, and Raul does something at the end that I hoped he would.

The narrative is fairly straight forward but is also enhanced by a few artsy interludes and non-linear flashbacks. We see Jonathan’s haircut, and Raul’s reaction, before actually watching the sexy hair buzzing scene itself. Two days are repeated, focusing first on Troy and then on Jonathan – who each awake to the same morning radio announcer making lame jokes about the heat. In this way, the audience gets to enjoy multiple viewpoints as the film weaves its tantalizing tapestry. Everything about August is first rate. The widescreen cinematography is superb. The quiet, Middle Eastern flavored score effectively underscores both the passion and the drama. And the cast is outstanding.

August is a heartfelt and moving film. It expertly captures the lingering emotions that never go away after a relationship ends. There are dramatic peaks, some flashes of humor, and it’s sexy as hell. Don’t miss this one.