Alan Howard's new movie starts out with an interesting conceit. A new,
Italian suit narrates the life of its owner, a 30-something,
good-looking, blonde landscaper and carpenter named Bob Goodlow. It's an
interesting conceit that unfortunately is only used to deliver obvious
character details and exposition that's close by miles to clever. Having
the narrator be an Italian suit gives the movie an opportunity to
comment on people's fashion, how it defines them, how it's utilized
functionally or how it's a form of creative expression. All of which was
a possible direction for the text. Yet, Howard's narration doesn't take
full advantage of this opportunity. The Italian suit as a prop or
object is barely present. Given the title of this movie, one would
assume the suit would be more prominent, more of an active device, but
With all due respect to Hunter Bodine who plays Bob Goodlow, this movie should not have been named after his character. The actual title should have been "Steve's New Suit" because this movie is more about Steve Goodlow who is Bob's younger brother, played by Shay Astar. I get that the movie is more of a vanity project or vehicle for Bodine, but Bob shouldn't be the focus and from a practical standpoint he isn't. Howard would probably argue that this is an ensemble piece, but Bodine certainly occupies more screen time than Astar.
The question is why. Why does Bodine have so much screen time? What is the point? His character Bob proposes marriage to his girlfriend Jenny. With little hesitation, Jenny accepts and for the rest of the movie Bob waits for the wedding day, while mildly navigating around some family drama. Bob, however, has no problems. At least, he has no problems that rise to the level of making him the center of a movie. There is a potential plot that could have raised Bob to that level, but Howard so underplays it that it's rendered almost inconsequential. It's a plot involving Bob's cousin George, played by the really cute Charlie Babcock who besides Astar gives the best performance of the bunch. Yet, George's plot flies so far under the radar that Howard might as well not even have had it at all.
The real center of this movie is Bob's brother Steve. Steve is transgendered. Steve was born a girl who was named Stephanie. Just after Bob announces he's getting married, Stephanie announces that she wants to be a him and wants to be called Steve from now on. This obviously sucks the oxygen not only out of the room but out of the movie. Howard tries to introduce other things into this family tableau but anything else is either supremely underdeveloped or hollow echoes by comparison, including an alcoholic stepmother.
Then, by the end, Howard takes a dramatic left turn. He drops a bomb that was hinted from the beginning, but no one is really allowed to stew about it. The audience is barely allowed to feel the rush of wind that this dramatic turn creates before Howard slams on the brakes.
Everything is laid out as a series of events, plainly and matter-of-factly, and there's no real push or pull in any direction. There's essentially no real conflict. Conflict is teased but never fully executed. All the potential strife just rolls off everyone like water off a duck's back. I never felt any of the threats or stakes. I never felt any of the heartaches, and, by the end, it seems like the family wins the lottery. Everything is so pleasant and easy-going.
Bob's New Suit is like the numerous shots that the filmmaker has of Hunter Bodine running along the sidewalk, shirtless and sweaty in short shorts. It's nice to look at but it's really just an exercise.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated But Recommended 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 36 mins.