Well, I don’t know what to say. I was going to finish off my “Kung Fu Gunk Fu” review series with Paul Kyriazi’s Weapons of Death and Chin-Lai Sung’s Four Robbers, but it would appear that neither is as “horribly amazing” as initially suspected. I also must admit that I quickly got burned out on ninja films after reviewing 6 in a row, which is one of the reasons I haven’t released a review in nearly a year.
So, instead, I’ve decided to go back to other genres and move on, beginning with a review of the LGBTQ romantic drama Ben & Arthur, directed, produced, and written by brilliant overlooked auteur Sam Mraovich (that’s not a misspelling, but the best surname in existence). The film also stars Mraovich as lovelorn Arthur Sailes along with Jamie Brett Gabel as the brooding Ben Sheets in a performance I’m shocked didn’t land him a spot as a shining Hollywood A-lister.
The film is a tearjerking love story about how Ben and Arthur want to get married, and wind up doing so in Vermont, before Arthur’s religious brother attempts to tear them apart in any way he can. It’s a simple but poignant story about the depths to which lovers will go to defy the ones working to put them down. I cried so many times that my tear ducts turned inside out and I was able to mop my entire apartment’s floor with all of the fluid. So, I suppose I can thank this film for motivating me to clean my apartment, too.
Before diving into the film, I would like to begin with a brief exploration of Sam Mraovich himself, of course, and the air of mystery that surrounds him. According to IMDb, apart from Ben & Arthur, Mraovich hasn’t partaken in any behind-the-scenes roles in any other film, and has only acted in two films since, A Slice of Terror and Vapid Shallow Models Must Die!, the latter of which sees his role as “Nosey Neighbor” uncredited. As you can see, they’re probably top-quality productions.
However, deeper research has led me to the discovery that he wrote, directed, and starred in something in 2016 called Steve’s Hollywood Story. It appears at least one person watched it, with a solitary 5-star review from “Robert” who says that it’s even better than this film, claiming it’s a “well paced low budget movie that doesn’t have a boring period in it.” I believe that would make the dialogue unbearably tedious and Faulknerian then, but maybe neglecting to add periods to sentences is another bit of Mraovich’s under-appreciated genius. It’s making me curious, that’s for sure, and there’s no way “Robert” is Sam Mraovich or someone else who worked on the film just trying to move it up a notch. No way.
Anyway, as for Sam Mraovich’s IMDb biography, it looks like he’s trying to simultaneously tell his life’s story while also using it as a dating profile. He even wrote it himself! Along with mentioning that he “was born on March 4, 1976 in a small town in the tri-state area called Stuebenville in Ohio,” he lists his favorite hobbies as “oil painting, singing, being at the beach, and spending time with friends.”
According to the bio, he went to college in California for a while before he “just started talking with” a film producer in Pennsylvania and wound up in the Screen Actors’ Guild at the tender age of 19. It also says he’s got two projects in the works, and currently lives with his sister. Oh yeah, he’s also a “Licensed Real Estate Agent and also a Licensed Hair Stylist in the state of California,” so if you need a new house or some new hair in Cali, you know where to turn.
He also appears to want to use IMDb as a platform for his resume using the trivia section, so any employers browsing IMDb know how qualified he is:
Now for the majestic wonder that is Ben & Arthur.
The film gives us some great opening credits, set to the incredibly relevant ragtime piano tune “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin, with a background animation of what looks like pixelated lava, perhaps a reference to the Hell to which the titular characters are to be condemned for their homosexual relationship.
Sam Mraovich credits himself 11 times, including three times within the first 10 seconds.
Why “PRODUCTION” is in all-caps and “Film” isn’t is yet another mystery I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out.
Following the credits, we open with Arthur sleeping in his bed, when he gets a phone call from Ben about whether he’s “heard the news” yet. Arthur tells him he hasn’t and that he was just taking a nap, before he decides to turn the radio on and listen to the broadcast, which Ben somehow knows is just about to come on.
Oh no! They’re having connection issues!
“Hello?” Arthur desperately asks into the phone. “Hey, Ben, I’m losing you. I think your cell phone’s dying.”
“Arthur, my battery’s low. I’m losing you.”
“Hello?” Arthur asks to nothing, no one. “Hello?”
I’m already crying, such effective foreshadowing of their lost love.
Following their tragic disconnection, Arthur turns the radio on and tunes into the right station, where the broadcaster announces that the court of Hawaii has decided to make gay marriage legal.
Arthur is a happy camper.
Cut to 5 hours later.
Ben shows up at Arthur’s apartment, when Arthur leaps out for a hug with a glittery heartwarming musical cue. It’s enough to make my eyes vomit tears.
“Let’s finally go to Hawaii!” Arthur shouts as Ben laughs joyously.
Cue excited montage set to some song with the apt chorus of “Let’s go!”
Time to pack that leopard-patterned shirt!
And that patriotic “fuck yeah, America” shirt!
Just dump that box full of random papers and shit in there!
Uh oh, looks like Ben packed too much! Oh, that charming quirkiness is perfect.
The next morning they’re set to go, and Arthur meets with Ben, ready to fly to fucking Hawaii. But Ben seems down for some reason, and asks Arthur if he’s seen the morning newspaper.
“Who cares about today’s paper? Let’s go,” Arthur demands.
Ben slaps him with it.
“What is so important about today’s paper?”
After spending a few seconds flipping through to the damn article because Ben didn’t have it flipped open to it already for some reason, Arthur reads most of the story aloud about how the Hawaiian court has decided to wait longer to decide if gay marriage will be legal, which may be another two years.
Well, that was fast.
“So what’re we gonna do?” Arthur asks.
“Well, there’s no reason to go to Hawaii now,” Ben replies, making a good point before just walking away.
“Why aren’t you upset, is what I want to know.”
“I am upset.”
You sure don’t act like it, Ben.
Ben suggests they try again in another two years, but that idea doesn’t sit well with Arthur.
“This country sucks! It just fuckin’ sucks!” He walks offscreen for a moment groaning “Oooh” before smashing something for the sake of smashing shit and returning. He finishes his tirade with, “You know what, if we ever get into a war and they draft my ass [subtle zoom-in], the first thing I’m gonna tell ’em is if I’m not good enough to get married in this country, then I sure as hell ain’t dyin’ for it!” He then walks offscreen again and smashes more shit in dramatic fashion. “Fuckin’ sucks, man!”
Now that’s a bit of monologue that I’m sure would impress Aaron Sorkin if Mraovich was in his Masterclass.
Arthur then brings up that they need to pay for the tickets, and while Ben was at least 10 feet away from Arthur in one shot, he teleports right in front of him in the next when he needs to tell him something. These powers are never explained.