Review: ‘I AM MICHAEL’ places James Franco on emotional seesaw in this true-life story.

A film by Justin Kelly

Starring: James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY:
Justin Kelly (King Cobra)
Based on The New York Times article “My Ex-Gay Friend” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis

EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY:
Gus Van Sant (Milk, Good Will Hunting, To Die For)

PRODUCED BY:
Rabbit MandiniJames Franco and Vince Jolivette (Palo Alto, Spring Breakers, Lovelace), Michael Mendelsohn (I Am Wrath, Lord of War, Air Force One) of Patriot Pictures, Scott Reed and Ron Singer of That’s Hollywood.

I AM MICHAEL is the incredible true-life story of Michael Glatze (Franco), a high-profile queer youth activist who created a national controversy when he claimed to no longer be gay and became a straight Christian pastor. The film follows Michael from his life in San Francisco with his boyfriend Bennett (Quinto), where he pursues political activism, a journalist career at XY Magazine, social awareness, and sexual exploration, to his days of personal self-discovery. After a traumatic scare, Michael is plagued by doubt and paranoia, and begins a religious reawakening. Michael renounces his gay lifestyle, rejects his friends, and endeavors to find his “true self.” He explores Buddhism and Mormonism, yet ultimately lands at a Christian Bible school in rural Wyoming where he meets his girlfriend, Rebekah (Roberts), and becomes the pastor of his own church. This powerful new film captures one man’s haunting journey through modern concepts of love, denial and redemption.

Crisis of conscience, fear, confusion, exploration, self-loathing, and everywhere in between. I Am Michael follows the unusual journey of Michael Glatze, a man whose inner turmoil pulls him every which way. Emotional tethers bring Glatze back and forth between his intellectual desire to live in God’s light and path, or whatever that means to him at any moment in time, and the natural desires that come with being a human being. Not wanting to be labeled as a gay man, his oftentimes outwardly offensive exploration comes at the cost of personal relationships. The story rolls along at a rapid pace, which never takes away from the tumultuous up and down in Michael’s life. Franco, is brilliant, as per usual. If you haven’t delved into the huge range of his work, you are genuinely missing out. The man is a PR genius and I still wonder when he has time to sleep. Quinto, as boyfriend Bennett, also bring a beautifully grounded performance and is the perfect foil for Franco’s energy. Emma Roberts plays what some might call a tragic role, as Glatze’s eventual fiance’. A young Christian girl willing to look beyond the past and love Michael for who he claims to presently be and believe. The film features the song “Crucify” by Tori Amos (Which I’ve conveniently shared underneath the trailer!). Its placement is both poignant and perfect in tone and lyrics. Overall, I am Michael gives us a glimpse into a place where religion and sexuality collide and perhaps illustrates the intolerance from both angles. The film comes to theaters and on VOD today, January, 27th.

 

Opening in Theaters and VOD on January 27th

Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival, Berlin International Film Festival, Seattle International Film Festival, Frameline Film Festival, Provincetown International Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival.
RT: 101min

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.