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James Franco Looks Like He’s Actually Trying in the ‘I Am Michael’ Trailer

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Showbiz is weird sometimes: Director Justin Kelly premiered his first feature-length film I Am Michael at Sundance in January 2015, where James Franco earned scattered praise for his performance as real-life “ex-gay” Michael Glatze. Instead of sitting on his hands and waiting for the film to land a distribution deal, Kelly went right ahead and commenced work on his second feature, the gay porn saga King Cobra, which premiered at Tribeca back in the spring of 2016. “James Franco in a movie about gay porn” proved to be a more hooky angle, and the film was shown in theaters across America this past fall. That bump to Kelly’s profile enabled him to finally land distribution for I Am Michael, the trailer for which surfaced yesterday in advance of its release on January 27. Both debut and not, Kelly’s first film will be his second release. Just a fun film-industry fact.

At any rate, the general public will get their long-awaited look at I Am Michael in short order, and the trailer above teases an intimately personal drama of tangled faith, sexuality, and identity. Franco portrays Glatze during a pivotal period of his life, during which the gay activist abandoned his lover (portrayed by Zachary Quinto, Mr. Spock in the new Star Trek franchise) renounced his sexual orientation and became a fundamentalist pastor advocating gay conversion therapy. The radical 180 on his most deeply held beliefs alienated his boyfriend, his friends, and his family, but led him into a new marriage you a likeminded God-fearing girl named Rebekah (Emma Roberts). As you might imagine, he courted quite a bit of controversy.

Franco has become increasingly hit-or-miss in recent years, but it looks as if he’s brought his A-game to this project. (The comparison to 127 Hours in the trailer is a clear attempt at reassuring the audience of this much.) Good to have you back, Actually Trying James Franco!

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