Tristen Stafford’s Pretenders is what if Pam and Jim but gay. Three friends from high school reconvene after Nick’s first year of college and try to relive their hijinks at the beach house of their youth but it doesn’t go the way they remember. Jasper and Hannah haven’t left the town where they went to high school, didn’t go to college, and Jasper seems completely fine with the way things are. In that sense, she constitutes a kind of hybrid of Dory and Michael Scott, innocence and passion without achievement or talent. Hannah is going through these twin events of discovering her sexuality as a gay person while also worrying about what she should be doing with her life. She’s wearing her heart on her sleeves and worried that she’s wasting her time with someone who cannot emotionally reciprocate.
The movie is rife with moments of comic surrealism–one of the great moments of this film is an extended scene about Moby Dick and pocket hotdogs. Whoever is the sound/music editor for this movie should get a fucking medal. Actually, I’ll do you one better, I’m going to look up the name of the person in charge of the exquisite sound effects in this movie, because it is polished and supremely funny from beginning to end. Is it Tristen Stafford, the director? Holy cow, if that’s the case, good on you, Tristen!
The music of the film is typified by what I think of as Spongebob music and other people sometimes call Tiki lounge music, which I’m learning is called “Exotica,” a sub genre of lounge music, which makes it sound both dirty and not at all connected to Pacific Island culture. “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” is the theme of this film.
Pretenders is by no means a complicated film, but the few things that it’s done to differentiate itself by adding characters of color and LGBTQ folks puts it miles ahead of the other romcoms in this festival.