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Florida Film Festival: The FInal Member

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The Final Member

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

The Final Member is not the strangest film I've seen at the Florida Film Festival but it probably deals with the strangest topic. It addresses said topic in about as straight forward a manner as possible, and though there are times the film veers dangerously close to a bit of tongue in cheek observation about its subjects, it is consistently neutral and respectful of the people involved, even when they seem bats**t crazy.

For the last twenty years, Siggi Hjartarson has run the Icelandic Phallalogical Museum, a facility dedicated exclusively to penises of all kinds. Hjartarson, a former teacher, has spent most of his adult life collecting mammalian male genitalia to put on a display for a surprisingly large crowd. Having collected just about every species possible, there is one final specimen to acquire: homo sapien. An aged local ex-explorer/self-proclaimed Don Juan named Pall Arason plans to donate his penis after his death, but Siggi worries that he might not live to see the endowment. (I couldn't resist.) Hope comes in the form of Tom Mitchell, an American who not only wants to donate his penis to the museum, he wants to do it soon, while he's still alive.

Siggi takes real pride in his museum, and the movie addresses themes of mortality and how we want to be remembered and avoids what could have been a long string of obvious penis jokes. The filmmakers let the natural humor of this situation play itself out, though all the people involved treat it as gravely serious. At first Siggi seems a bit crazy, but then we get to know Tom Mitchell, the American donor, and all our notions of crazy go out the window. Tom is obsessed with his penis and with the idea that he has to be the first donor to the museum. Siggi begins to get tired of Tom's constant emails and calls and demands for how he wants his member, nicknamed "Elmo," (which he insists predates the Sesame Street character) to be displayed. Tom seems harmless but is clearly damaged; he's not interested in a sex change, he just doesn't want the pain and heartbreak associated with having a penis.

Reviewing a film like this is not easy, because the subject matter tends to overshadow all other considerations. It is well made, the filmmakers treat those involved in a respectful manner while still letting the funny in, and it can't be said there aren't entertaining moments. A warning: there is a lot of penis on display in this movie. Tom dresses Elmo in little costumes and sends the pictures to Siggi, including a little Viking outfit. This might appeal to some people, and you know who you are.

The Final Member screens again on Friday; for ticket info visit the Florida Film Festival website. You can find my other reviews from the festival here.

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