Feel-good Mexican comedy “Hazlo Como Hombre” (“Do It Like a Man”) — about Santi (Alfonso Dosal) coming out to his best friends, Raúl (Mauricio Ochmann) and Eduardo (Humberto Busto) — has been breaking box-office records in its home country this summer. Now, American audiences can see the film, opening Sept. 1 in area theaters, and laugh along as machismo is skewered.
The film introduces Raúl as the alpha dog among the three male friends. Cocky and competitive by nature, he acts like a teenage boy even though he’s twice that age. But he needs to grow up; after all, his wife, Luciana (Ignacia Allamund), is pregnant. Raúl’s comfortability, however, crumbles when best friend Santi announces he is gay and breaks off his engagement to Raúl’s sister, Nati (Aislinn Derbez). That this declaration takes place in the shower at the gym where the three guys play soccer makes it a bit more awkward. While Eduardo congratulates Santi for his courage and is supportive of his friend, Raúl’s response is far harsher. He feels he needs to “cure” Santi, and reads books and searches the Internet for ways of “fixing” this problem. Luciana, a voice of reason, says Santi’s sexual orientation is not a problem, and that it would be good for Raúl to have a gay friend. Still, Raúl consults a therapist to figure out how to deal with his conflicted emotions.
“Hazlo Como Hombre” wisely focuses more on Raúl’s reaction than Santi’s sexuality, which may be why the film has been so successful. It uses broad humor to teach tolerance and change minds. Yes, there are “drop the soap” in the shower jokes, and Raúl has ridiculous fears of rape, but these exaggerated comic bits that reinforce homophobia and gay stereotypes are deflected and dissolve over the course of the film.
While Santi’s sexuality is more the pivot for the plot than its focus, there is considerable comic discussion of gay sex and sexuality. Director Nicolás López, who cowrote the film with Guillermo Amoedo, has the male and female characters talk about rimjobs, blowjobs and anal sex. The guys often kiss, touch or interact in ways that are highly homoerotic. One female character even sports a strap-on in one comic scene, hoping she can change a man’s mind about anal sex. The emphasis on all this sexuality is the film’s clever way of diffusing the fears and anxieties around gay sex and sexuality. The characters all joke about being gay or talk about ass play, which is funny to them — until they realize how insensitive they are. This is clearest in a silly episode in which Raúl tries to trick Santi into undergoing equine therapy to kill his “SSAS” (same-sex attraction syndrome).
“Hazlo Como Hombre” eventually introduces Santi’s boyfriend, Julian (Ariel Levy), a celebrity chef. The lovers’ affections at the guys’ weekly soccer game causes some comic trouble, but Julian’s presence also reveals what is really going on with Raúl: He is jealous of the guy who is stealing away his best friend. More bad macho behavior on Raúl’s part follows, most notably at a book/pool party Julian throws.
Viewers can laugh as Raúl embarrasses himself in every social situation, but beyond the cringe-inducing behavior, Raúl cries real tears that stem from his own anger and shame. The film’s strength — and why it succeeds as a crossover comedy — is that it gives gay and straight viewers sympathy for both the homosexual and the homophobe. The film’s lessons are delivered in a way that never makes Raúl’s deserved come-uppance seem anything other than of his own making. Even when he has relationship issues with Luciana, it is because of his stupidity.
Santi also has a relationship issue arise when Julian plans to move to Miami. It is to the film’s credit that the queer characters are portrayed as three-dimensional, relatable characters who make adult decisions, while some of the straight characters are buffoons. In addition to Raúl, Nati is particularly shrill and infantile until she starts to think more clearly about things. Nevertheless, she is the butt of a running joke about her hair, which several characters think looks like a wig after she has it dyed blonde.
“Hazlo Como Hombre” benefits from the entire ensemble cast playing up (or down) to the material. Ochmann may amplify his facial expressions and body language, but he generates laughs when he says or does the most inappropriate things. In support, Dosal is genial as the newly out Santi, and Busto is amusing as Edo, who, although underused, gets a few great scenes.
“Hazlo Como Hombre” is a sweet bromantic comedy about (in)sensitivity. What’s more, it ends with a terrific punchline that is sure to leave viewers smiling.