Twelve Thirty
“Twelve Thirty” is a stark, minimalist film about awkward relationships. Director Jeff Lipsky (“Flannel Pajamas”) seemingly wants the viewer to get uncomfortable along with his characters. Many genteel moviegoers will decline that invitation, but the more adventurous ones will find a curiously conflicted “indie” film that’s difficult to stop thinking about.
Jeff (Jonathan Groff) works at a restaurant with Mel (Portia Reiners), and while in a close-encounter conversation in the storage closet, they admit to each other their mutual attraction. Jeff plays the halting innocent (“I’ve never really been with a woman before”) which excites Mel even more---you know, initiating the novitiate, and all that. So they first go to “The Church of the Open Door,” where he says he visits frequently to meditate, which she thinks is odd, considering she intends to seduce him, and when they find the door locked, she excuses herself to relieve herself in the bushes-----an irony about sexuality and religion? Still professing her interest in “hooking up” with him, they go to her house, where she lives with her Mom and her older sister, but both happen to be spending the night elsewhere, so Mel blatantly offers herself to Jeff, and the next morning continues to be playfully sexual with him, even in the laundry room, but after that, she suddenly loses interest.
Now Mel’s older sister, Maura (Mamie Gummer), in the same bedroom where Jeff and Mel had played the previous weekend, has a frank sexual conversation with her sleepover friend, Irina (Halley Feiffer), who encourages her to arrange her first experience, and the next person she meets at a party is….Jeff, who again plays the “I’ve Never Done This Before” card, but Maura’s reluctance turns into resistance in the darkness of the closeted passion, and the uncomfortableness here, for the viewer, is not the obscured visual nudity, but the stark nakedness of Jeff’s forceful insistence after Maura has asked him to stop.
Again, Jeff’s blandishments are rejected, but undaunted, he comes by the house to look for Mel, and going upstairs unannounced he finds…Mom,Vivian (Karen Young) in her see-through bra. Abandonment of modesty leads to lowering of defenses, which leads to….you guessed it. The family trifecta.
Enter the ex-husband-now-happily-gay bull male, who calls a family meeting, including Jeff, where his threats of physical punishment for Maura causes a revulsion, then a repentance, of sorts, for Jeff, who hastily beats a retreat, which, it turns out, is what all of them wanted to see. So here we are, incredibly sexually dysfunctional, and emotionally truncated, as well, but this is supposed to be life as it is really lived?
Perhaps. Or maybe Writer/Director Jeff Lipsky’s vision of isolated Americana is more intensely visceral than any of us can stand.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas