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Reviews: Matt Bomer in ‘Papi Chulo’; Seth Green’s ‘Changeland’; and more

‘Papi Chulo’

Tales of unlikely friendships where an explicit power imbalance is at play tend to suffer from their own saccharine aspirations. Refreshingly more incisive, Irish writer-director John Butler’s “Papi Chulo” partly thwarts such presumption with researched specificity and POC characters with strong agency.

Downcast gay weatherman Sean (Matt Bomer) has an on-air meltdown over a romantic separation. In an effort to attain closure via physical erasure, he seeks to repaint the ostentatious deck of his home. Picked from a line of many like him outside a hardware store, Ernesto (Alejandro Patiño), an undocumented day laborer from Nayarit, Mexico, takes on the job.

Each man knows enough of the other’s first language to communicate the essentials. Quizzical looks that evolve into sincere shared smiles fill in the gaps. Patiño delights with the precise gestures to convey that though Ernesto is there to get paid to support his family, compassion for another person, even a privileged doofus, shouldn’t be conditional. Scenes without him drag into insipid territory.

Butler hired native Spanish-speakers, which translates into commendably authentic dialogue, and shot the film in Pico Rivera, a city that’s seldom photographed. In “Papi Chulo,” immigrants have lives beyond the white world and in multiple scenes pity its obliviousness. By the same token, the film highlights the ingrained homophobia in the Latino community.

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Generating more impact through its musical choices than when it tries to use heat and rain as emotional metaphors, this banally titled buddy dramedy won’t solve our critical drought of empathy or advance our social justice preoccupations, but it’s a mostly enjoyable drop in the right direction.

—Carlos Aguilar

‘Papi Chulo’

In English and Spanish with English subtitles

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Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: Starts June 7, AMC Sunset 5, West Hollywood

-------------‘Changeland’(L-R)- Dan (Breckin Meyer) and Brandon (Seth Green) take advice from a local legend, Martin (Randy O

Seth Green, left, and Breckin Meyer in the movie "Changeland."

(Gravitas Ventures)

With the wackiness of “Robot Chicken” as his signature work behind the camera, Seth Green’s feature directorial debut feels like a departure. “Changeland” is a largely low-key road dramedy that centers on a rekindled friendship between two men on a trip to Thailand.

After discovering his wife’s infidelity, a wrecked and nearly catatonic Brandon (Green) asks his estranged pal Dan (Breckin Meyer) to join him on the vacation he planned to take with his spouse. As the two travel around the country, everyone Brandon meets, including a tour guide (Brenda Song) and an American expat (Macaulay Culkin), offers him advice on how he should live his life in the wake of heartbreak.

“Changeland” picks up in its second half, not coincidentally when Green’s Brandon is awakened out of his stupor. If this role is any evidence, Green doesn’t seem to know his strengths as an actor are not in playing dead-eyed and depressed. Green’s character-driven script is at its best when it’s silliest or when it focuses on the easy chemistry between Green and Meyer, showing a lived-in friendship.

Thailand is lovingly shot with an eye for its vibrant colors, and there are some late scenes that show an impressive style from Green. Not everything in the script shows that same care, but this is still an interesting, if not wholly successful first feature from the star.

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—Kimber Myers

‘Changeland’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Starts June 7, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD

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‘Everything Is Free’Morgan Krantz as ?Cole? in a scene from “Everything is Free.” Credit: Breaking Glass Pictures

Peter Vack in the movie "Everything Is Free."

(Breaking Glass Pictures)

The sexy and appealing “Everything Is Free,” written and directed with smarts and confidence by star Brian Jordan Alvarez, evokes one of those uninhibited, free-love youth flicks circa 1969 — just more self-aware, less self-serious and a whole lot gayer.

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When Ivan (Alvarez), a gay American artist living in Colombia, is paid a visit by hetero best pal Christian (Peter Vack) and Christian’s brother, Cole (Morgan Krantz), Ivan hooks up with the seductive, “heretofore straight” Cole and falls hard.

The problem: Cole seems, at best, bi-curious, and Christian, oddly protective of his younger sib, forces Ivan to knock off the nookie — or else. (Christian’s flip from mellow buddy to violent jerk feels unearned, though it does the trick conflict-wise.)

Ivan’s passage through the broken hearts club is credibly handled by Alvarez, who also produced and edited. He’s created — and engagingly portrays — Ivan, not as some dizzy obsessive, but as a sincere, intuitive, if persistent, partner who believes he knows love when he sees it.

Alvarez, subbing L.A.-area locations for Colombia, employs an effective visual style, one that’s alternately patient, peppy and wistful. And, though we could learn more about Ivan, Christian and Cole, as well as the many other folks — gay and straight — who cross in and out of Ivan’s life, “Free” proves a bold, amusing and enjoyable ride.

—Gary Goldstein

‘Everything Is Free’

In English and Spanish with English subtitles.

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: Starts June 7, Laemmle Glendale

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‘Katie Says Goodbye’Olivia Cooke in “KATIE SAYS GOODBYE. " Credit: Vertical Entertainment

Olivia Cooke in the movie "Katie Says Goodbye."

(Vertical Entertainment)

After making the festival rounds in 2016 and 2017, the debut drama by Wayne Roberts (“The Professor”) is finally able to be seen by audiences. But in a post-#MeToo 2019 — when we’re more concerned with how women are portrayed on screen — isn’t a friendlier time for the release of “Katie Says Goodbye,” a film that deserves scrutiny for its treatment of its young female protagonist.

“Katie Says Goodbye” offers the perspective of 17-year-old Katie (Olivia Cooke), a kindhearted waitress who earns extra money through sex work in her small Arizona town in the 1980s. She dreams of moving to San Francisco, and she has an unshakable optimism that doesn’t crack with each new calamity Roberts’ script throws at her, including physical violence and financial hardship.

Torture porn is kinder to its victims than “Katie Says Goodbye” is to its heroine. Long takes don’t let us look away from her, but a grueling rape scene focuses on a bystander, rather than her reaction to what’s happening to her. This plot revelation might seem like a spoiler, but Roberts’ drama sets up this moment as an inevitability from the film’s early moments.

The director has assembled a strong cast, including Christopher Abbott, Mary Steenburgen and Mireille Enos, and he has a good eye for framing Katie against the backdrop of desert vistas. But his grim screenplay tests the audience’s patience, moving languidly through the gauntlet of trials that he throws in Katie’s path.

—Kimber Myers

‘Katie Says Goodbye’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Available June 7 on VOD

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