Is ‘Luca’ Disney’s ‘Call Me by Your Name’?
Everything we can’t stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Bingeing through Bennifer horniness.
- A super (secretly) gay Pixar movie???
- The world’s most famous owl.
- Step on my neck, Kathryn Hahn.
- Happy Juneteenth!
No one emotionally prepared me for the final act of Luca.
I can already scan my inbox of emails asking why I’m putting an agenda on a nice kids’ movie, but we’re still in goddamn 2021, at a point where we have to assign agendas to kids’ movies in order to be seen. Luca may be the gayest thing Disney has ever done.
Luca is a coming out story. When I saw the trailer, I pitched my editor, “Isn’t this Call Me by Your Name?” to be cheeky. I’ll never forget what it felt like to be in the theater at the Sundance Film Festival, a standing room-only audience watching such a devastating, honest, and HORNY gay love story. We were all so lucky that it was snowing that night. We needed a cold shower.
That film was about a young queer person who was so gifted and so loved, but didn’t quite understand who he was. It took a perfect man—someone with such swagger, such intelligence, and, in spite of cannibalism entering the story recently, so conventionally hot—to make him feel like it would be OK to be who he is. That’s the thing about coming out that is often ignored: It’s not just announcing who you are, but it is feeling like it’s going to be all right once you do it.
In any case, Luca is a delightfully idiosyncratic film from the Disney/Pixar conveyor belt of emotional devastation. For the workshop known for pulling a psychologist’s chair up to the idea of what cinema is capable of teaching children about their emotions and existence, Luca is remarkably simple. What if you realized the version of yourself that makes you most happy, even if it makes other people scared? And what if those people came around, too?
It’s easy to recount the plot of Luca because it’s basically the plot of Call Me by Your Name, sans peach. Well, there are also sea monsters who become humans once on land and just want to fit in, but the gist is there.
So entranced by the general vibe of a seaside Italian village, a fish-thing (you try describing the tail, but also legs, creature) is drawn to the shore. There he meets Alberto, who is also a fish-thing but found out they could live as humans on land, as long as they don’t get wet. Like an elder gay taking a twink to The Eagle for the first time, he opens Luca to a world of possibility.
I started this assignment jotting down lines I thought would be funny to recount in a “LOL Luca Is Pixar’s Call Me by Your Name” piece. And they are there. “First time?” Alberto tells Luca. “Relax. Breathe.” The gay joke writes itself.
But I was so dramatically whisked away by the life lessons about accepting yourself and a life of otherness that I don’t want to be glib. This is the line that resonated with me, and it’s from his parents: “Some people will never accept him. But some will. And he seems to know how to find the good ones.”
We talk a lot about what these Disney and Pixar movies tell children about the hardships of life, about death and depression and anger and fear. But Luca is a movie that tells us it’s all going to be OK. It’s so simple that it shattered me.
I’m not sure how to talk about anything this week without bringing up the owl. Salma Hayek’s owl. It’s all I think about.
It’s not clear to me how we’ve gone this long without hearing about Kering, the actress’ pet owl who sleeps on her head when her husband is not home. If I was a publicist, this would be the only thing I would publicize. I would devote my life to it. Salma Hayek’s house-trained pet owl would be my life’s devotion, and it would feel good.
The reason we all know about this now is that Hayek appeared on the talk show of She Who Must Not Be Named (her name is Ellen) and talked about it. Apparently Kering once threw up on Harry Styles’ hair. People are making a big deal about that, as if it’s not exactly what they would do if they saw Harry Styles and his hair in person.
There is a video that has been shared repeatedly on social media this week of Kathryn Hahn walking down a hallway. I’m typically skeptical of such viral hyperbole, but in this case, wow. Has humanity ever walked before? Has hair existed before Kathryn Hahn tousled it? Never witnessed such hotness.
I learned about Juneteenth because a publicist emailed me four years ago saying that black-ish was producing an episode about it. That’s horrible. (The episode itself is very good, and if you read this newsletter for watch recommendations, you should watch that.)
I can’t, shouldn’t, and won’t monologue about the politics and importance of all this. But maybe, in the list of all the things we find important, make this one of them?
Luca: It’s a Disney/Pixar movie. Obviously I cried. (Fri. in theaters and on Disney+)
Evil: Binges this good should be a sin. Get it??? (Sun. on Paramount+)
The Good Fight: It’s honestly the best drama on TV.. (Thu. on Paramount+)
Physical: Not at all what you would expect, and in a bad way. (Fri. on Apple TV+)
Too Hot to Handle: If we don’t engage in these dumbass shows, will they go away? (Wed. on Netflix)