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Out With Dad – a more involved review, pt 1

March 17, 2012

First, I’d like to thank the folks that stopped by based on their interest in the series. I am, ot the best of my knowledge, in no way connected to that series, though I do know someone who has worked on it a bit. My friend and I haven’t discussed the series in any way, and no, I won’t name them, out of respect.

In any case, I’ve been following the series since it first started, and my views have been fairly well documented all the way along (I didn’t comment on the website for the first episode, for reasons I’ll reveal shortly), until my little disconnect, which I mentioned in my previous entry, which I assume you’ve already seen. If not, no worries; it’s not what I consider to be required reading by any stretch of the imagination. I say this NOT because I didn’t mean what I said, but because, to be frank, I didn’t say enough.

Now, in preparing for this review, I did indeed watch every episode over again, up to the episode I had so much trouble with that it stopped my viewing of the series. I didn’t abandon the series; I knew I’d be back. I just had such a strong reaction to that one episode (2.03 “Having it Out”) that I needed to step back a bit. I didn’t think I’d take this much time, but when you’re a delicate little flower such as I (*snort*), some times you need to take as much time as it takes, you know what I mean?

I still haven’t finished the series. I’ve been saving it for this review. I’m going to start over one more time and do one of my in-depth reviews, to be fair to Jason Leaver’s creation. This won’t be a particularly impartial review, as I DO consider myself a fan. However, I will be as honest as I know how, so it won’t be all wine and roses, either.

Now, before I get to the spoiler space, I will offer you the link to the Watch All page, where I’m going to do this review.




SPOILER SPACE… I’m not kidding… If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like spoilers, now is the time to leave… After this SPOILER SPACE, I won’t brook any Boo Hooing or QQing about SPOILERS, because I told you from the start, this is a SPOILER SPACE, and I have every intention of SPOILING the ENTIRE SERIES in one go (well, maybe two)… FINAL WARNING: SPOILER SPACE… SPOILERS AHEAD!!! Welcome to the Land of SPOILERS! Are we clear about this being SPOILER SPACE? Good. Then let’s begin.




1.01 Rose with Vanessa

The series opens with a very charming corkboard-as-title sequence, and I have to admit, the choice of music from the outset had me hooked. Rose and Venessa are laying head to head on Rose’s bed, talking, of all things, about NOT being gay. It’s all very sweet and well-intentioned, but there is an awkwardness–an honest one, I think–that makes this scene almost painful for me, not because it’s not good, but because it reminds me a little too much of how socially awkward my teens were, too.

And then they kiss. And it gets even more awkward, but at least they’ve gotten to the point. Rose is exploring, unsure but open, and and Vanessa is receptive at first, until a noise is heard, and we meet Dad. The definition of awkward. Interestingly, the more I watch this first episode, the more nuanced and perfect it feels. However, I believe my original conclusion was that the cast seemed uncertain of themselves, unsure of their roles, unsure of the size of their reactions. Awkward, in other words. Awkward and probably quite true, really.

1.02 Out To Lunch

Nathan is up late with the laptop, researching a hunch. Something has tipped him off that his daughter Rose might be gay. The web is NOT helping, as the sights that come up in search are mostly self-righteous and wrong-headed ‘prevention/cure sites. Rose comes down for a glass of water, and again, strong, awkward reactions. Dad has closed the laptop too quickly, probably arousing her suspicions, though of what we never learn. Nathan texts a buddy of his to meet him at the café for some advice.

This episode was the first of the rethought format of the series, which involved creator Jason Leaver having to retool the remaining episodes to focus more on story flow and less on running time, which I think has given the series a very strong, dramatically rewarding feel. I’m a big one for finding your footing as you go along, but here Jason demonstrated his ability to think on his feet and get control of his creation in excellent time. From this point on, the series starts to find its feet.

Meanwhile, Rose and Kenny are trying to play cards, but Kenny doesn’t get that something has happened between the girls, and sends Rose into the lion’s den. Vanessa is clearly hung up on the problem of ‘normalcy’, which becomes easier to understand later in the series, but here we just suspect that she’s a bit hidebound and ill-informed. Being the age I am, I confess to being a little out of touch with this part of my awkward teens: the Judgemental Years. I forget how normal it felt to just assert these simple rules to such complex issues, a thing I was never particularly good at, so seeing it on full display in this episode brings back a lot of painful memories where we were all so very, very wrong so very much of the time. ose and Vanessa are us. Ouch.

And finally, Nathan meets his gay friend Johnny, who wants to to set Nathan up for a blind date. Then Nathan tries to subtly ask how you can tell if someone is gay, and Johnny drops the bombshell that he knows it’s Rose he’s asking about. Johnny explains about his ‘Gaydar’ going off, a popular euphemism for being able to tell when someone is exhibiting behaviourisms that are not gender normative. Rose’s strong reaction to people insinuating she is involved with her friend Kenny tipped Johnny off at a birthday party a year earlier. Nathan asks for advice, and Johnny recommends broaching the issue openly but thoughtfully,  realizing Rose it scared out of her wits despite the close relationship with her father.

Johnny recommends taking Rose to see a new movie (implication being that it’s a gay-positive  film), and explains that the internet is largely useless for fair and supportive advice about gay teens because ‘the internet is owned by America’, a statement my New Yorker wife would probably be a bit miffed at, but which is very honest to the way a lot of Canadians tend to think in general about American stereotypes. He DOES recommend PFLAG Canada, though he’s never been, which is a pretty good idea that more coming-out people should probably heed. It’s refreshing to see both the openness of these men’s friendship and the blitheness which they share, in a time when there are still quite a few men who would find it difficult maintaining a close friendship with a gay man. It’s pretty clear that Nathan has had a very different experience with gay culture in the past.

1.03 Movie Night With Dad

This episode starts off with Vanessa broaching on the forbidden subject of Rose and Kenny getting together. I take from this that Vanessa wants to quickly dispel the notion that her best friend might be gay, so she doesn’t have to deal with her mother’s homophobic overreaction. The fact that she has seized hold of Rose’s word ‘confused’ to explain away the whole matter clinches it in her mind that Rose just needs to get a boyfriend and she’ll turn out to be normal. Naturally, Rose isn’t having it. Rose may not believe she’s gay, but she knows she’s not in love with Kenny; “He’s like a brother to me”.

This whole scene, which takes place at the lockers, is cleverly juxtaposed with what appears to be Kenny in the background being reprimanded for skateboarding in school and chatting up some girl we don’t know. Rose assures Vanessa that Kenny isn’t interested in her, though Vanessa has her doubts. Vanessa has already taken to using subtle but confrontational gay-hate language, which bodes ill for the change in their relationship. By this point, however, I think the actresses have really locked into their roles, complex and awkward as they may seem, and we start to really see that they have some idea of who their characters are, which is what helps these scenes come off as fluidly as they do.

The scene ends with Vanessa asking if Rose is already sure she’s gay, and Rose has no answer for her. However, the scene transitions to one of the more lovely sequences in the series, where we briefly meet the mysterious girl in a bow-tie on the subway train, who with a few quick glances and some mutual eye flirting helps Rose to figure out what the answer is. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who wanted to know if we would ever meet this mysterious muse again, though it seems safe to assume not. Point is, EPIPHANY, and for the first time since the series started, we see Rose smile, and it’s a lovely smile indeed.

Rose returns home to find Nathan basically cooking all of the leftovers and perishables in the fridge, and again we see that 100 watt smile. She’s relaxing. She’s coming back. She’s still not coming out, but at least she knows something about herself that had been giving her trouble before. She discovers she’s still not ready to discuss it with dear old Dad, though. He’s going to have to keep pushing into the awkward zone if he’s going to get to the truth here. She maintains that she’s not sure yet, but she remains convinced she has to sort it out for herself, which is hard for him to hear.

Then we arrive at the movie theatre, and we get to watch one of the more technically challenging sequences of the entire series, but don’t let that distract you from the importance of this part of the story. When Rose figures out that they’re here to watch a gay romantic comedy, she starts to freak out a bit, having a spirited conversation with herself in the midst of grilling her father, who happens to be having an even more animated discussion with his inner self, also seated next to him in the theatre.

It’s at this point in the series that we start to see Jason Leaver’s vision for how the series is going to go, with some very clever directorial decisions that definitely help to tell the story in an unusual but highly effective way. Up to this point, it’s all been down to some fairly conventional-if-honest discussions in mid shot, a handful of very clever transitions, and a few really good musical cues, plus that one rather clever shot of Kenny in the background (sort of his natural place in this series) giving us a little bit of dual narrative. Here we have dual narrative writ large, and the performances are fantastic. The long hours it took them to shoot this sequence were well worth the work put in.

The most important thing you need to know about this is that it’s NOT about the technical exercise. Somewhere in the midst of this very funny and almost disastrous sequence, Nathan puts in his thumb and pulls out a plumb, getting profound, quoting Shakespeare, and managing to just get the tone of his plea to his daughter note perfect… after some fumbling, of course. The ‘closer’, as they say, is when he intimates that her late mother would have understood and been able to explain all of this better than him, which reassures Rose immensely. It’s a beautiful scene, and clinches this episode as my favourite in the series to date.

1.04 Party Out

This episode opens at a teen party with perhaps the funniest thing you’ll see in this or any series anywhere, ever:



It’s a pretty perfect song for this sort of dancing, and admittedly, if there were ever going to be a sequence where Rose and Kenny get it together, this would be it. However, when the music changes, it’s not Kenny who gets the girl, but Vanessa, who steps in and, almost as if in a dream, pretty handily sweeps Rose off her feet. Except that, as with all great, non-progressive rock tunes, the ending always comes too soon, and this time both figuratively and literally, when Vanessa stresses the lyric emphasizing that she can’t love Rose, and the scene almost freezes, until Kenny comes to the rescue and whisks Vanessa away, who seems to be relieved. Rose tries to recoup, but an off chance conversation with a random girl sends her into a bit of a tailspin when the other girl almost intimates that it looks like there’s something between Rose and Vanessa, who is over in the corner flirting with a young man who seems to be playing the song we hear in the soundtrack on his guitar, a terribly clever but effective continuation of the soundtrack-as-narrative device.

It ends with Rose locking herself in the bathroom, crying and trying to reassure Kenny through the door that she’s fine, when clearly she’s not. Fade to black. Roll credits.

1.05 Blind Date with Nathan

The next episode opens with Nathan at a patio bar, taking part in the blind date that Johnny set him up with, who turns out to be a not-unattractive and quite charming divorcée, whose husband, as it turns out, left her for another man. It’s all quite charming until Nathan finds himself having to confess that he suspects his daughter might be gay, and that he’s still struggling to come to grips with the distance it’s put between them. However, the scene is salvaged when his date reveals that her husband left her for their best man, and that she in turn had been the best ‘man’ at their wedding, before they’d moved off to Vancouver.

We next see Nathan on the street car, travelling home, when he gets first a message from Angela (we finally learn his date’s name; nice one, Jason), and then a call from Rose at the party, who is upset and wants him to come pick her up. He confesses he’s too intoxicated to drive (here in Hamilton, that wouldn’t be as much of an impediment, but Hamiltonians can be a bit reckless at times), and tells her to call a cab and come home. We close on his feeling powerless to help his little girl.

1.06 Tea with Dad

Nathan rushes home to find Rose waiting on the front porch, upset. This is a nice, short sequence in low light as they hold each other and the camera moves around them to show off their emotional states. Nathan has trouble admitting he was out on a first date, but Rose is none the wiser, and merely accepts his invitation to put on some tea.

The ritual. Making tea properly is a ritual, and don’t let anyone tell you different. We witness this ritual in some lovely camera work, as Nathan goes about executing his late wife’s procedure for making the perfect pot of tea. And yes, we Ontarians really do drink our milk from bags.

The touchstone here, the tea ritual, reinforces the idea that Rose’s mother was the one who knew best, and that Nathan’s best moves were really hers first. This offers Rose a bit of comfort, and realigns her with her father, who merely asks her to acknowledge that he is there for her when she’s ready.

1.07 Chemistry with Vanessa

Next day, Rose is at Vanessa’s, ready for her chemistry tutorial, and Vanessa is helpful, effervescent, and charming. The lesson gives Jason Leaver a chance to play with special effects, which in this situation is comedically perfect. A little goofy, in fact, but we forgive this for the end result: Vanessa kisses Rose, and the subtle look of love and admiration that she gives Rose is a look most of us would give a limb to experience. Too good to last, Vanessa’s mother comes in and sends Rose home, before sitting Vanessa down for what looks to be a very stern chat. Dun Dun Dun Dun!

Rose, apparently oblivious to the trouble her girlfriend is probably getting in, is home with Dad, ebullient and confident. They get to discussing Vanessa’s mother, whom Nathan has almost never met in all the years that the girls have been friends. Then Rose calls it an early night, and has a rather sensual but very tastefully-shot dream about kissing and snuggling Vanessa in her bed. Lovely choice of song. Lovely sequence. And then, just as it appears to be getting particularly steamy, Rose wakes up, at first a little surprised, but then somewhat pleased with herself.

She arrives at school, sort of spacing out at her locker, when Kenny happens by, followed by Vanessa, which proves to be awkward, as Vanessa gives back her notebook and leaves upset, leaving Rose to recall her father’s words about ‘Conflict’.

1.08 Out with Kenny

On the way home from school, we  witness Rose and Kenny have their first serious conversation of the whole season, at first discussing his intention to ask Alicia van Heren (sp?) out. He clearly expects some conflict here, but Rose is delighted, which takes him by surprise. She reassures him it’s okay, but he kind of goes off babbling about how close they are and how everyone thinks they’re a couple, and then she drops the bombshell: she tells him she’s gay. Suddenly, the whole conversation shifts, and he’s all happy that he’s the first she’s come out to. True to form, it’s all about Kenny, but he’s a good lad, so we forgive him.

Then we get a rather silly/serious sequence of Rose trying to prepare herself to come out with her father, juxtaposed with her dancing and jumping on her bed in elation, 70s lens flare and the reprised series theme adding to the gaiety–it really is the best word here–of the sequence. Then, in the midst of rehearsing and failing miserably to prepare herself for what she’ll say to her father, she hears him arrive home from work, and the season ends on the cliffhanger. Hey, don’t look so sad. I had to wait a year for the answer. You only have to wait for the Telus commercial to end.

Well, that and having to link to PART TWO (link coming soonish), which I will post in a few hours, when I’m finished writing it. Seeya then.

Your Uncle Eddie.



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