In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, as scores of Hollywood's A-list talent and power brokers are being exposed for their alleged sexual misconduct, it seems oddly tone deaf for the industry to hail as an "Oscar contender" a movie about a 25-year-old man seducing a 17-old-boy.
Yet, the movie, "Call Me By Your Name," stars Armie Hammer ("The Social Network"), as a lecherous 25-year-old preying on the 17-year-old Timothée Chalamet ("Interstellar") during one hot Italian summer in 1983.
Following the revelations that Kevin Spacey allegedly pursued sex with underaged boys, a movie about the pitfalls of that lifestyle seems apt. Has Hollywood finally found what Weinstein once described as its "moral compass"?
Not in the least. In fact, just one year after Tinseltown awarded Best Picture to a movie featuring two male teens giving each other handjobs on a Miami beach, the industry seems intent on pumping the creep factor up to 11. Hardly a cautionary tale, "Call Me By Your Name" is a romance of depraved proportions.
Here's how Angie Han of Mashable glowingly described the film's subject matter, praising it for shrugging off the bourgeois values inherent in relationships "filtered through a heterosexual male gaze."
Sound and image collide to create an almost tactile sensation. You can practically feel the sun on your skin and taste the sweat on your lips. Much attention is paid to the way the two romantic leads – young Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) – carry themselves and regard each other, and the physical attraction between them feels immediate and electric.
It's not that Call Me By Your Name is especially explicit (though the famous peach scene is definitely going to get people talking), but that it's unmistakably sensual. Sex is no mere byproduct of love; nor is love an elevation of sex. In Call Me By Your Name, the romantic and the erotic are inextricably intertwined.
The "infamous peach scene" referred to above involves the 17-year-old boy masturbating into a cut peach, which Armie Hammer's character eventually eats. Like this transgender artist urinating into a bucket to protest Trump, biting into a peach once used as an instrument for self-stimulation now passes as "art."
The film now holds a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, with every major critic hailing the film as an erotic masterpiece.
"There is no sin, it insists. There is just joy — and whether you find that in a cold glass of apricot juice or the warm embrace of a village beauty should matter to no one but you," says Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star Ledger.
"A powerfully erotic and affecting love story, albeit one so closely and intimately observed that the term 'slow burn' seems almost inadequate," says Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times.
"Refreshingly fun, erotic, non-judgmental and both intellectually and emotionally smart," says Bob Strauss of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Both Hollywood Reporter and USA Today have hailed the movie as a serious Oscar contender; nobody within the Hollywood echo-chamber, however, has acknowledged that pushing a movie about sexual predation dressed up as puppy romance is not exactly the best way to repair their tarnished image while several of their biggest power players are being investigated for sex crimes.