Out of the Celluloid Closet

Big Boys Is a Sweet, Sexy, Coming-of-Age Comedy

· Updated on October 4, 2023

There’s something truly formative about summer holidays. The freedom that comes from getting away from the social and educational pressures of school, encourages a much more authentic existence for queer teens. In writer-director Corey Sherman’s debut film Big Boys, summer vacation is exactly where we meet Jamie (Isaac Kranser,) a 14-year-old boy all set for a family camping trip with his much-loved cousin Allie (Dora Madison.) His bags are packed, he’s stocked up his favorite snacks and he’s raring to go. The only thing he hasn’t expected is the addition of Allie’s new boyfriend, Dan (David Johnson III) – he certainly wasn’t expecting to fall for him, either.

With a supposedly ruined camping trip now the least of Jamie’s worries, the queer teen must attempt to process this influx of new and unexpected feelings whilst salvaging what’s left of his holiday. Happily for viewers, Isaac Krasner is wonderful as Jamie. He captures all the teenage awkwardness of having your first crush and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. Though as standout performances go, David Johnson III takes home the crown as dreamboat Dan, the unwitting object of Jamie’s affection. While many will be able to relate to Kranser’s thoughtful performance as past closeted teenagers themselves, it’s Johnson III’s embodiment of an older, straight guy love object that hits even harder. Together, Kranser and Johnson firmly ground the film in the unmistakable reality we’ve all been in at some point, lusting after the painfully straight boyfriend of someone else.

With Jamie and Dan both being the “big boys” of the title, the film also stands as the impressive, rare example of body diversity within queer cinema. Their size isn’t an intrinsic part of the narrative, and it doesn’t need to be.

Sherman’s screenplay is clearly a deeply personal piece of work—the filmmaker has explained that Big Boys is based on his own experiences growing up—but it’s able to become universal in its specificity. He creatively takes Jamie through several scenarios that will be familiar to everyone watching: The physical contact Jamie and Dan share during an arm wrestle, the verbal affirmation he receives when Dan refers to them both as “big boys,” and even their shared love of Alicia Keys. These could all be small throwaway moments in other hands, but Sherman thrives finds his authorial voice in such fleeting exchanges. He pieces them together in an effortless fashion, letting us in on the open secret of Jamie’s first love.

That’s not to say that Big Boys isn’t also full of its own share of comedy and cringe. It’s more that the cringe never gets in the way of the film’s abundance of heart. By the end, the film has formed its own gorgeous snapshot of nostalgic summers and their impressionable essence, so much so that Big Boys itself could have that same ability, for some, to be just as formative.♦

Learn more about Big Boys here.

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