I Am Michael is a fascinating true-life story of Michael Glatze who was a gay activist but ended up rejecting his homosexuality. It’s a story which sent shockwaves through the gay community at the time especially since Glatze was the editor of the popular gay magazines XY and YGA. He ended up becoming a fundamentalist Christian and is now happily married to a woman.
James Franco portrays Glatze in his latest string of LGBT roles, Franco’s willingness to take on such roles has caused speculation about his own sexuality. Glatze lived with his boyfriend Benoit Denizet-Lewis (Zachary Quinto) during the late ’90s in San Francisco (a famously gay-friendly city) but when his boyfriend takes up a job up in Halifax, Canada they move. However, he soon has a health scare and soon becomes interested in Christianity despite being disgusted by anti-gay rhetoric by fundamentalist Christians.
Franco hasn’t been this good in a role for a while, he perfectly gets the pain Glatze is going through and also the belief that what he is doing is right. Zachary Quinto is also well cast as his boyfriend and Emma Roberts is a delight at the woman Glatze ends up marrying. It also has a one-scene role from Daryl Hannah as the runner of a Buddhist retreat Glatze goes on, it seems like a thing the director Justin Kelly does, he also got Molly Ringwald for one scene in his next film King Cobra.
The subject matter could have easily been sensationalized by either a gay or straight filmmaker. Kelly making his directorial debut here perfectly balances the sensational elements with the real torment Glatze went through during his journey of discovery. Glatze was involved with the film early on so it has an element of sympathy which another film may not do but isn’t afraid to question his decision. It’s helped by the fact Gus Van Sant serves as executive producer and is the person who originally told Franco the story.
It may end up being too impartial for some critics but it’s a refreshing take on a complicated story. The film asks many questions which don’t have an easy answer one way or another. It dares to entertain the notion there may be a small element of choice when it comes to sexuality which is a politically incorrect notion but an interesting discussion. The filmmakers I’m sure hope to create discussion with the film but I’m sure strict Christians will be turned off by the gay content so it will probably linger in the world of gay cinema which as we know is a niche audience.