I cannot stress enough how much I was really not a fan of director Amanda Kramer’s last film, Give Me Pity!, and its oddball mock-style television format. Color me surprised then that Kramer’s second movie, the fantastically bizarre Please Baby Please, is such an intriguing treat. With lead performances from Andrea Riseborough (2020’s The Grudge, Possessor), Harry Melling (The Old Guard, Harry Potter series), and Karl Glusman (Love, Watcher), this musically-inclined feature transports us to the mean streets of 1950s Manhattan. Examining the thin line between gender dynamics and the exploration of one’s sexuality, Please Baby Please is a surreal, colorful ride.
The film starts off with heavy strokes of West Side Story, as we follow greaser gang The Young Gents on the prowl deep into the night. When they find a target, the group violently beats them down, kicking and stomping them into submission. Enter: newlywed couple Suze (Riseborough) and Arthur (Melling), who catch them in the act. They quietly try to see themselves out, but this chance encounter will fuel the entire affair. Bangs and noises heard out in the streets morph into intricate, barely connected vignettes dripping with dynamic and singular voices. The Young Gents seem to become obsessed with both Suze and Arthur in different ways. Teddy (Glusman), a Young Gent, starts a flirtatious seduction, with his sights set mainly on Arthur.
If seeking out a movie with a traditional narrative and a proper conclusion, please steer clear of Please Baby Please. That is simply not something on the mind of Amanda Kramer and her co-writer Noel David Taylor. The duo is more interested in exploring the dynamics of what it means to be a man, and poking fun at the ridiculousness of our societal gender norms. Lengthy conversations between Arthur, Suze, and others spell this out quite plainly throughout the course of the film. Arthur is a sweet and sensitive type, an “artistic soul,” but Suze on the other hand seems to feed on chaos and is far more explorative.
Please Baby Please is filmed is a style evoking old Hollywood, constantly making use of light and shadow while the elaborate costumes and expressive dialogue add a rich layer of vibrance. A show-stopping musical number that plays out on the inside of a phone booth is like nothing I have ever seen before. Demi Moore pops up in a smaller role with a grand entrance, proclaiming that she “ought to be famous, but I’m married.” Sensual exchanges between Arthur and Teddy crackle and pop thanks to committed turns from Harry Melling and Karl Glusman, respectively. Riseborough relishes in her character’s extended surrealist dreamlike sequences that are peppered in as if from the set of Twin Peaks. Please Baby Please may not make a whole lot of sense if one views it on a surface level, but as a campy queer comedy laser-focused on masculinity, it is certainly one of the most unique movies I have seen all year.
Please Baby Please screened at 2022’s NewFest, New York’s LGBTQ+ Film Festival.