Rosskam’s approach is two-fold, intercutting interviews about transmasculine sexual history and behavior with a fictional interaction between characters played by Theo Germaine and Aden Hakimi. Both halves of the film feel like they’re trying to playfully unpack the complexity of the transmasculine sexual experience, revealing how silly it is to paint any gender identity with a broad brush. Trans identity allows for an array of desires, proclivities, beliefs, and dreams, and “Desire Lines” succeeds by tearing down the clichés that makes any classification of people into a monolith.
The material between Hakimi and Germaine, while well-performed, feels a bit clunky, more like a student film than the deep intellectualism in the documentary portions of the production. I just wanted them to be a bit further refined, and less self-aware. The best moments in “Desire Lines” come from spontaneous admissions, stories of past or desired behavior that often come with a laugh and a smile. It’s at its most essential when it’s about freedom of expression, completely devoid of judgment or expectation. Representation must come with that kind of freedom, and “Desire Lines” is a joyous step toward both.
Finally, there’s one of the major premieres of Sundance 2024, A24’s “A Different Man,” a dramedy that allows Sebastian Stan one of his richest roles to date. It’s a film that gets more meta as it spins its ideas into a chaotic final act that I believe gets away from writer/director Aaron Schimberg a bit more than it should, but I still admire the performances and ideas in this unusual film.
Stan plays an actor named Edward with a facial deformity so drastic that he struggles to find work and happiness. In an almost Charlie Kaufman-esque set-up, Edward’s life is just surreal enough to be unrealistic. Like the characters in something like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” Edward is given what feels like an impossible gift, a surgical procedure that will transform his appearance into the movie-star looks of Stan. The problem? He’s still Edward on the inside.