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Richard LeMay’s family drama Naked As We Came is designed to impart a bit of wisdom: Get out of your own way.
As advice goes, it’s not groundbreaking. But, as in life, it’s all about the journey, and spending some time with this reconvened clan offers some valuable takeaways.
Lilly (S. Lue McWilliams) is a cancer-stricken, newly penitent matriarch, grudgingly reunited in her final days with bitter daughter Laura (Karmine Alers) and clingy gay son Elliot (Ryan Vigilant).
The kids haven’t visited in two years because of a strained relationship caused by Lilly’s alcoholism; during that time, Lilly has housed Ted (Benjamin Weaver), a young writer and gay heartthrob who helps her with the cooking, groundskeeping, and grueling day-to-day chore of living through an illness.
Gaunt and frail, Lilly’s appearance sobers Elliot and Laura to the realization that time is short, prompting a last-ditch effort at reconciliation that features some juicy having-it-out monologues. As in too much queer cinema, Naked is weighed down by wooden, charisma-free hunks in leading roles, but McWilliams proves a revelation whose passionate performance more than compensates for the distracting eye candy.
Naked plays like a gay-themed August: Osage County without all the histrionics. The lessons learned here are similar to those in August (love one another and be good to yourself), as are the archetypes (closed-off inebriated mother creating dysfunctional children), but there’s much more nuance in the way LeMay frames the revelations. The journey’s better.