A humanizing, buddy road trip/sex comedy that is never gross-out or vile like many of its predecessors from the past, Richard Wong’s COME AS YOU ARE approaches an empathetic look at what life is like for adult men living with disabilities and wanting to experience life’s greatest pleasures.
An American remake of the 2011 Belgian film Hasta la Vista and based on Asta Philpot’s real-life trip to a brothel that caters to persons with disabilities, in order to lose his virginity, COME AS YOU ARE humorously introduces the audience to lead Scotty (Grant Rosenmeyer) having a sex dream and pitching a tent, while his mother/caretaker interrupts him to assist him out of bed. And this funny scenario sets the tone for much of the rest of the movie, while simultaneously shifting into an endearing story about appreciating the briefness of life.
Scotty is (as he admits)…horny. He’s a wannabe rapper, well into his twenties, and has never had sex— as he feels he’s had a hard time with dating and meeting women because of his handicap. He finds out about Le Chateau Paradis in Montreal, a specific bordello for guys like him, and convinces Matt aka “Biceps” (Hayden Szeto), who is also in a wheelchair, and his friend Mo (Ravi Patel), who is visually impaired, to come along with him— as long as they can a) get a ride up there and b) keep their excursion a secret from their parents. The three men hire their ride in the perfectly cast Gabourey Sidibe as Sam— a former nurse that lost her license after exacting some revenge on her ex— and leave without even a goodbye to their oft-overbearing families. And every actor is charming in his or her roles and refreshingly diverse, even if (interestingly) the cast is made up entirely of abled-bodied actors.
Of course, the joy lies within the journey instead of the destination, and as so-called “Operation Copulation” heeds forth, COME AS YOU ARE allows the characters an effective amount of bonding time for the audience to truly give a damn about each of them, as they begin to genuinely give a damn about each other. During a particular sequence that takes place in a bar setting, the three men defend Sam (and each other) as bullies make disparaging comments towards the group. In a way that both places the audience in the shoes of these men while (respectfully) playing on the riffs of the proper ways to address and communicate with them, COME AS YOU ARE gives seldom-seen agency to movie characters living with disabilities, as they navigate laughs, fights, sexual experiences, independence, and their own moralities. Even Sidibe’s Sam, who initially wants nothing to do with the threesome, begins to lighten up and develops a genuine affection for Patel’s Mo, and their polar opposite chemistry is bizarre in the best possible way.
Engaging and filled with lots of laughs, Wong’s film chooses resonance over excessive, gross-out raunchiness a la American Pie or Road Trip. A nether regions shaving scene is hysterical because of the dialogue exchange back and forth between the characters, and not because of juvenile graphicness. The audience will find themselves laughing at Scotty’s questionable rapping skills, while also simultaneously rooting for him to pursue it, as well. Even when the guys arrive at the Paradis, their sexual conquests are less “Woo! We’re getting laid” and more of the “I want to connect with a woman first”— which almost never happens in this sort of subgenre. Even when the film takes a turn for the tragic, Wong still manages to keep smiles on faces. Everything— even the most bittersweet of moments— feels earned and accurate to real life: sometimes it’s wonderful, and sometimes it’s not. But if you aren’t laughing through it all, what’s the point?
COME AS YOU ARE is as sweet as it is punchy and as amusing as it is sentimental. Give it a chance. COME AS YOU ARE arrives in theaters February 14, 2020.