‘Please Baby Please’ Review: Hyper-Masculinity, on Its Head
This 1950s satire from Amanda Kramer broadens the scope of the queer leather canon.
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By Teo Bugbee
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A gang of greasers roams the smoggy streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They’re decked out motorcycle caps straight out of “The Wild Ones” and “Jailhouse Rock”-like striped T-shirts, and they pause their prowling for a dance before violently bludgeoning two passers-by. In the satire “Please Baby Please,” these hoodlums are known as the Young Gents, and their hyper-stylized assault is witnessed by a beatnik couple, Arthur (Harry Melling) and Suze (Andrea Riseborough). The duo is transfixed.
This chance first meeting with the Young Gents spells trouble for the married pair — trouble with a capital T that rhymes with G and that stands for gender. From this encounter, the film spins out into a romp through the muddle of 1950s masculinity. Arthur has spent his life resisting what he sees as the prison of his own manhood, and he finds himself drawn to the gang’s pouting pretty-boy leader (Karl Glusman). Suze is unleashed as a blossoming leather daddy in a beehive, taking further inspiration from a provocative neighbor, Maureen (Demi Moore). As Arthur and Suze navigate the physical threats to their safety imposed by their introduction to the Young Gents, they question their relationship and the roles that they play as husband and wife.
The director Amanda Kramer takes aesthetic and erotic cues from the traditions passed down by artists like Kenneth Anger and Tom of Finland. The film’s ironic tone largely defangs the transgressive films it parodies, but Kramer does broaden the scope of the queer leather canon. She includes women among those searchers who might find their sense of identity through a performance of hyper-masculinity. Riseborough offers a dynamite performance as Suze, leaning into a thick New York accent as she slouches and slinks through her character’s awakening.
Please Baby Please
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. In theaters.
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