About halfway through Show Me What You Got, a young man has a Skype call with his mother, during which he informs her that he is in a relationship with two people. His mother laughs, looks away from the camera in embarrassment and says, “Such a French Cliché, huh?” It’s a fitting rebuttal in a film constructed almost entirely out of nostalgic nods to all the clichés of the French New Wave. Paralleling 1962 Truffaut classic Jules & Jim almost note for note, the film uses heavy voice over from a dispassionate narrator monochromatic cinematography to tell the story of a love triangle between two men and a woman that ultimately ends badly. Show Me What You Got is a stunningly beautiful directorial debut from cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko that makes some interesting updates to its predecessor by exploring modern social mores and featuring significantly more tasteful nudity. However, despite its strengths, it never quite rises to the same level of poetic romance as its original.
In modern day Los Angeles, three young millennials meet entirely by chance. Marcello (Mattia Minasi) is the spoiled son of a famous Italian soap opera star, ostensibly living in America to represent his father in meetings for new projects, but really spending most of his days having casual sex while not having a real job. While venting his rage on the boardwalk one day, he befriends Nassim (Neyssan Falahi), a French-Iranian actor trying to live his dream. The triangle is completed when they meet Christine (Cristina Rambaldi), a barista by day and aspiring artist by night. The three become fast friends and bond over a series of art exhibits and exuberant running and jumping montages that owe as much to the bridge scene from Jules & Jim as the filler from a typical Beatles movie. Eventually, they head to Joshua Tree where they sit on a desert boat and have sex in the open air. In case anyone was wondering what the kids are up to these days.
After their first tryst, the narrator proclaims, “Now lovers, these three friends are embarking on a new journey – life filled with support and no judgement.” Unfortunately, it is also a life without much in the way of responsibility, drama, or plot. Though the unbridled sex will ultimately get sidetracked by a minor sub-plot involving Marcello and a woman he may or may not have knocked up, most of the movie consists of dancing, twirling, and dissing the nature of art as the kids slowly navigate their way through awkward relationship dynamics, pausing only occasionally to raise the pretentiousness stakes by reciting Shakespeare in the mirror. There is very little in the way of story in the film, and thanks to the pervasive narration, there isn’t much in the way of real emotional development either. The characters always live at a distance, their feelings usually described rather than felt. While this again has precedent in Jules & Jim, the extreme degree to which the film lives in its descriptions feels more like what might have happened if the omnipresent voice of Alpha 60 from Godard’s Alphaville had been a sexy French woman describing her Instagram feed.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 Stars
If you’re in the mood for some soft-core erotica that won’t be too embarrassing when it accidentally shows up in your browser history during a Zoom presentation, Show Me What You Got might be worth a look. It offers appropriately beautiful cinematography, erotic if rarely graphic sexuality, and occasionally interesting performances. However, the lackluster story and heavy-handed voiceover keep the film moving at a glacial pace. While the visual poetry will appeal to a certain breed of indie-philes, it rarely amounts to more than a technically competent ode to much better films of yore.