I Don’t Understand You (2024)


I Don’t Understand You Review

In the twisted queer comedy of Brian Crano and David Craig, two expectant dads misjudge cultural differences that could seriously endanger their adoption plans.

Well-off gay couple Dom (Nick Kroll) and Cole (Andrew Rannells), who live in a country and at a time when, as Americans, they can legally marry, adopt and pretty much do anything straight people can but are also old enough to remember when they couldn’t have decided the world is against them. They’re ready for rejection everywhere they go. And so everywhere they go, they find it.

A dark comedy about filmmaker Brian Crano and David Craig’s bumpy road to becoming fathers informs “I Don’t Understand You,” which takes place during a certain period in the life of Dom and Cole when everything seems to be going swimmingly until it doesn’t. While celebrating their anniversary in Italy, where they’ve traveled because that’s where all gay couples travel onscreen for some reason, the men receive word that the baby they’ve been attempting to manifest (one adoption has already fallen through) is about to be delivered. An old family friend arranges for them to eat at an off-the-beaten-path restaurant. Etcetera. La vita è bella.

The holiday quickly turns into a series of increasingly dark misunderstandings. Suddenly there are dead bodies stacking up around our heroes; suddenly our heroes aren’t sure if they’ve committed a hate crime against their hosts, who couldn’t be nicer though really, how many times does somebody need to stab the air with knives and say “You’re going to be dey-ud” before you start thinking something might be up? And how would you know if you’d been persecuted your whole life?

Dom and Cole are bad people (in ways this review will not detail). But “I Don’t Understand You” does not care what crimes these two might stand trial for. The movie doesn’t even care if the characters are nice. Kroll and Rannells play the couple with such an us-against-the-world zeal that you find yourself on their side, even when it’s not quite clear whether Cole’s panic attacks and little public displays of affection are supposed to come off cute or cringey.

Like our heroes, the writer-directors behind “I Don’t Understand You” are married, which means that while all of this has been heightened for comedic effect, some of it probably also comes from an autobiographical place. That’s one reason why the film works: Things go completely off the rails for Dom and Cole, but we buy them as people. These potential parents are flawed in every other way too secretive about money; too careless about others’ feelings, too dismissive of personal boundaries; etc. But they want a baby so badly that nothing else matters. Not misunderstandings they choose to read as microaggressions (like the hotel clerk who can’t process why they’ve booked the honeymoon suite, and proceeds to make a big show of separating the beds). Not more explicit threats.

The couple is driving to their dinner reservation when they take a wrong turn onto a private road and get stuck in a ditch. When the angry landowner arrives with a shotgun, they think it’s over for them. It doesn’t help that they don’t speak Italian (though Dom gave Duolingo a shot, but he can barely order). You can see it on their faces. They almost became parents, and now they’re about to end up dead or delivered in some Italian backwater.

But before these two alarmist dopes have time to act on this fear, the stranger leads them to the restaurant. Maybe the locals aren’t so hostile after all. At this point, Crano and Craig calibrate the tension so that it could go either way. And though Francesca (Eleonora Romandini), the rustic restaurateur who doubles as Dom and Cole’s and every other tourist’s imagined mother-in-law during their stay, gives them no reason to be anything short of immediately charmed by her (“White Lotus” star power), what follows suggests that maybe they should also be worried about their knife-wielding host or her macho son (Morgan Spector) a lot more so than they are.

“I Don’t Understand You” tonally has the twisted expect-the-worstness of classic Danny DeVito movies (“Ruthless People,” “The War of the Roses”), though its cynicism is mostly superficial; for instance, Amanda Seyfried (who starred in Crano’s short “Dog Food” and appears here via video call as another pregnant stranger voluntarily planning to give them her fetus) seems too good-naturedly generous to be true. But then again maybe not: Francesca seems wildly excited at hosting and film crews only rarely book gay couples like Dom and Cole, who represent a happiness her own son never got close enough to experience. If only they could speak Italian or read the subtitles that show us what she says when they don’t, but are too busy embellishing their own worst-case translation scenarios.

Instead, they’re scared. This part of the movie doesn’t make much sense in fact that part of life rarely does: where cross-cultural miscommunication tips into mayhem. The filmmakers clearly know that gays raised in less accepting times carry a certain wariness wherever they go, like some kind of PTSD light, but the farce is forced, and to be honest this whole extreme account of their Italian anniversary trip (our best guess at the origin? something involving a hotel bathtub) might have worked better if it hadn’t been quite so lethal. If anything about this were real, though we mean really real then what would be is this part. The couple got so close to becoming parents, and all they want is for someone to tell them how to do it.

Watch I Don’t Understand You For Free On Gomovies.

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