America may not be the most progressive of nations, but Eleven Men Out from Iceland feels even here like a bland, regressive, thoroughly conventional take on the coming-out scenario. European comedies can be precious, self-consciously unfunny affairs, and Eleven Men Out is a textbook example, as writer/director Róbert Douglas retreads timeworn, by-now safe-as-milk tropes about broken families, homophobia and all-around gay fabulousness. If you detect anything fresh or original in terms of character or story development, you're probably not watching this movie.
Soccer player Ottar (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson) declares he's gay, and suddenly his sexuality is the talk of the town. The revelation embarrasses his family, particularly his ex-wife Gugga (Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir), now a slutty lush, and his boorish brother Orri (Jón Atli Jónason), who runs a convenience store. A stubborn streak of homophobia seems to run through Ottar's soccer club's management, which promptly lets him go.
Ottar's righteously bitter, so he joins a rival, all-gay soccer team. From this point, the movie resembles a gay version of the small-town feel-good sports movie. Whereas, say, Bend It Like Beckham's girl-power, culture-clash storyline offered sparkling performances and a direct engagement with race issues, the brouhaha over Ottar's coming-out brings nothing to our common dialogue about how people can learn to get along. This isn’t to suggest that Douglas should've set out to make a Statement Movie, but his story ought to be trading in more than tired, witless clichés about gay life—all clubbing, sex talk and locker-room buffoonery.
Haraldsson's largely blank performance offers nothing, but Ottar's also a terrible father and lover, deserving of not an iota of regard or sympathy. He's your typical Euro-trash stud who screws around with his boyfriends in sight of his already traumatized son and can't decide if he wants to go back to his ex-wife Gugga or not. The guy's a spoiled, childish mess, no better than Gugga, who lives in a booze-cluttered apartment, or, frankly, the rest of this movie's contemptible dim bulbs.
The story's gay team manages to climb its way up the ranks, but they barely play a single game; in one of Douglas' few funny twists, opposing teams either forfeit or cancel the matches, giving Ottar's team one default win after another. Eleven scores a major point at its very end—no spoiler here, don't worry—which doesn't opt for the triumphant team-spirit climax, but something more honest and satisfying (and, thankfully, understated). It's a minor but vital grace note in a movie riddled with convention and caricature, right up to the standard Gay Pride Parade montage that marks the third act, complete with floats, frills and feathers. No, you're not watching an episode of E!'s Wild On..., folks, but you're not far off.
Cast: Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Lilja Nótt Þórarinsdóttir, Arnaldur Ernst, Helgi Björnsson, Sigurður Skúlason, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Björk Jakobsdóttir, Pattra Sriyanonge, Marius Sverrisson, Damon Younger, Nanna Ósk Jónsdóttir and Jón Atli Jónason
Director/Screenwriter: Róbert I. Douglas
Producers: Júlíus Kemp and Ingvar Þórðarson
Genre: Comedy; Icelandic-language, subtitled
Rating: R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
Running time: 85 min.
Release date: November 16, 2007 LA