No homosexual wallows in internalized homophobia better than does the writer-director Sebastián Silva, and the Nasty Baby director is on his shit again to hysterical results with Rotting in the Sun, an epically poison-penned side-eye toward modern gay culture that leaves no bundle-of-sticks unturned, most especially his own. Self-loathing has always been an important component of and bottomless reservoir for comedy, but even people as worthy of self-loathing as your Woody Allens and your Louis CKs never went quite as far as Silva does here—this feels like a Todd Solondz-directed episode of Search Party, just with a whole lot of explicit slobbering on cocks sprinkled on top for good measure.
Which is to say that Rotting in the Sun is as aggressive as anything Silva’s come up with to date, and this man was the story editor on that series where Toni Collette got her ass eaten only to be clawed to death by an owl. Also, his own leading man here Silva plays, well, Sebastián Silva, the writer-director of Crystal Fairy and the Magical Cactus and all of the other movies that the real-life writer-director Sebastián Silva has written and directed. Currently living in Mexico City and trying (poorly) to become a painter, he mostly just does line after line after line of ketamine and googles how to kill himself. And it’s right what they say—it does feel good to see one’s self on-screen! Representation matters!
Sebastián’s dog Chiba can’t stop eating shit—and for my money Silva is our closest heir to John Waters so this Pink Flamingos shout-out feels earned—while his housekeeper Vero (Catalina Saavedra, who also starred in Silva’s 2009 film The Maid) can’t stop glaring at him as if he’s a lunatic. Meanwhile, his manager slash landlord has the entire building around him being torn apart day and night by builders so even the ketamine can’t do its trick. There’s not a moment of peace, and so when that same manager suggests Sebastián go get laid at the local gay beach the siren song of anonymous dong sings his name.
Of course, the one-size-fits-all storm cloud that follows all us depressives around also loves the beach, so even there in that cranny of paradise Sebastián sits in the shade reading his forlorn literature as the parade of bouncing penises passes him by. As he doodles drawings of the “dog poison” phenobarbital that he read about being easy access in Mexico for elderly suicides, he decides on a whim to take a swim—a whim that will change his life forever! Because who should he bump into out there among the waves but the social media influencer Jordan Firstman, played by social media influencer Jordan Firstman, who knows Sebastián on sight. And there’s no losing a horny narcissist opportunist!
What follows is a farce of mounting miscommunications and pornographic indignities, mostly heaped upon Sebastián himself—a magnet for degradation who just can’t seem to help himself, he keeps inviting his worst instincts inside, welcoming each one with open arms and a warm cup of cocoa. Or is that cocaine? Cocaine. I meant cocaine.
And every wobbly person in his orbit is much the same. Beholden to nothing but bad decisions and the stars of their own individual melodramas—only in a world this dourly solipsistic could the ones with the biggest egos win—Rotting in the Sun a whirlwind of crossed-wires that wraps itself around whichever nearest throat it can choke off the quickest. This is to say that it’s breathlessly funny and mean-spirited, a tonic for these trying, boring times. It felt good for the soul to laugh this hard at something this nasty, it did. Call it chicken soup for the sodomites.