Dire Straights

In Maybe . . . Maybe Not, a character mentions that he's going to a Men's Movement discussion group. "Oh, that's so '70s," says another, and while the first guy concurs, he observes that such things are coming back into vogue. Apparently, a number of other things from the '70s are coming back into vogue, among them smirky, squealy sex farces of the Three's Company stripe, in which straight men are taken for gay--always mistakenly, of course. An enormous hit in Germany, where it was made, Maybe . . . Maybe Not has also been doing rather well elsewhere in the world, even though much of it depends on our finding the very idea of a studly straight guy hanging out with gays to be utterly hilarious all by itself.

The plot, adapted by director-screenwriter Sonke Wortmann from a comic book by Ralf Konig, traces the wacky misadventures of gorgeous Axel (Til Schweiger), a stud muffin who's been thrown out by his girlfriend Doro (Katja Riemann) for his womanizing ways. With nowhere else to go, he crashes in the apartment of a gay acquaintance, the nice, mild-mannered Norbert (Joachim Krol).

Norbert has a quiet crush on his new roomie--the film pretty much implies that what every gay man wants is a hetero hunk to convert--and Axel is surprised to find himself growing more and more attached--platonically--to Norbert. When Doro learns she's pregnant, she softens toward Axel, and is about to invite him back in when, by a wacky circumstance, she finds Norbert naked in the bedroom closet. And so on. You can guess some of the further wacky complications that arise from here.

Most of the advance word on Maybe . . . Maybe Not has been fairly hostile, in reaction to the movie's oddly unhip datedness. That it's a square movie is unmistakable, in a day and age when a Republican congressman from Arizona is willing, however reluctantly, to acknowledge that he's gay. Certainly there's some satisfaction in seeing tight-assed heterosexuals made to squirm by open homosexuality, but any so square that this movie would make them squirm aren't very likely to be in this audience in the first place. The average prime-time TV sitcom is more relaxed about homosexuality than Maybe . . . Maybe Not.

On the other hand, given a basic level of human decency, a comedy's level of sophistication shouldn't be (and isn't, except to film critics) as important as whether it's funny. Farce has a way of making questions of piety or political correctness seem irrelevant. I wouldn't want to risk life and limb in defense of Maybe . . . Maybe Not, but I should say that the bizarre farce climax, involving an aphrodisiac nasal spray which turns Axel into a crouching ape, undeniably wrung a few giggles out of me. The film is also uniformly well-acted, especially by Schweiger, who resembles a younger, beefier John Savage, and Krol, who manages a remarkably understated characterization, considering the context. Understatement--how un-'70s; how un-'90s, come to think of it.

--M. V. Moorhead

Maybe...Maybe Not:
Directed by Sonke Wortmann; with Til Schweiger, Joachim Krol, Katja Riemann, Rufus Beck, Antonia Lang and Armin Rohde.



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