(The SXSW Film Festival may have been cancelled, but our coverage will go on with reviews of films and TV shows made available to our critics.)
You ever have one of those days where you feel like the you that everyone sees isn’t the real you? Like you’ve got these ideas in your head of how you want things to go, but absolutely nothing goes that way? That’s the gist of This Isn’t Me. Fred (Ben Kawaller) starts his day off with a plan. It’s a weird plan, but damn it, it’s his! But life has a different plan for our protagonist in this pilot.
It all starts with a text. Fred’s to meet with a hookup later in the day who wants him to pee on him. He’s got trepidations, but hey, we’re all sex positive here and sometimes it’s an “any port in the storm” kind of situation. Fred’s got a shy bladder, so he makes sure to start chugging water just as soon as the agreement’s made. It’s important to note that his roommate Tony (Antonio De Graffenreaidt) isn’t so on board with someone getting peed on in his apartment.
Just as he’s leaving, Fred – who has been job hunting for what appears to be some time – gets a phone call from a prospective employer. Karen (Jessica Porter) has found him a potential tutoring gig with a rich family who’s trying to get their son Alan (Brody Allen) into a prep school. Needing a job more than he needs to get laid, Fred pushes his booty call to later in the day and rushes to the Cromwells’.
He quickly discovers that he’s not the only one who doesn’t really feel like himself. Alan, it turns out, doesn’t really identify as Alan. It’s the introduction of this character that makes This Isn’t Me really work. In the beginning, it’s a funny story of a guy trying to get laid. When we meet Alan, who prefers to identify as Lorraine, the pilot takes on a new and much more interesting direction.
That’s not to say that it’s disjointed. There’s a clear through line from start to finish. What it does do is make it clear that Fred isn’t as selfish as he may seem. He didn’t so much care that Tony wasn’t comfortable with his booty call happening in their apartment, but he does have a connection with this kid. Introducing a trans character as young as Lorraine is refreshing in its own right, but This Isn’t Me takes it a step further with the young woman’s portrayal.
Her parents view her as a screwup. Her grades are terrible and she never engages. Fred seems like a rockstar tutor from the jump solely by identifying that Alan doesn’t really feel like an Alan. The relationship that quickly grows between the two of these characters is funny and engaging…so much so that you forget for a moment that Fred’s been sucking down water to make sure he makes his booty call happy later in the day. The same booty call that he has to push off several times throughout the pilot to ensure he’s meeting Lorraine’s needs and is able to keep this new job.
Fred’s misadventures seem ridiculous on the face of things, but they’re used to tell a deeply relatable and often hilarious story. This Isn’t Me is well-told and heartfelt from the jump, and I sincerely hope to see more of it in the future.
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