Sweetums and Gonzo the Great
by ALEX CARNEVALE
The Imitation Game
dir. Morten Tyldum
The most important thing about telling the life story of any gay man on film is to never show a penis. Alan Turing presumably had a penis, but we will never really know. Benedict Cumberbatch refused to do full frontal in his role as Turing in The Imitation Game, causing the film’s most important scene – the one where he penetrates a code-breaking computer he has named Christopher with the precision head of his Dr. Pepper – to be left on the cutting room floor.
Instead of showing Turing’s relationships with men as an adult, The Imitation Game settles for depicting an innocent crush he had on a classmate as a boy. When the object of his affection drops dead of tuberculosis, Turing is briefly upset. Gay relationships are still only palatable if they are completely unrequited, making The Imitation Game the most cowardly biopic in history.
After his codebreaking days in World War II ended, Turing cruised a local bar for a hot bang. This would be a fascinating moment to depict on film, but instead all the exciting parts of The Imitation Game happen offscreen or in montage. The movie has about as much respect for its subject as Angelina Jolie does for the Japanese.
Cumberbatch’s spastic overacting reaches a nadir here. The newly engaged actor is fun to watch at times, particularly when he is shaking and crying as he jogs around the small English village that serves as The Imitation Game‘s main set. Director Morten Tyldum falls on his face by never giving him much to do – Benedict even wears the same fucking outfit for the duration.
Although the period sets are great fun – U-boats steaming through the water, children donning gas masks after the bombing of London – the larger costume design of The Imitation Game is tragically boring, along with pretty much everything else in it.
We never even see Turing with his shirt off: he’s one of the good, non-threatening homosexuals, you see. After a police officer terms Turing a “poofter”, a man in the audience loudly whispered to his wife, “He’s a gay” so that she would funderstand the rest of the movie.
Despite his devotion to never being with a woman in that way, Turing asks Joan (Keira Knightley) to marry him so she can help him crack the German code machine and finish the Nazis off. Because her teeth look like hot garbage and she has little in the way of other options, she agrees. He ties up a piece of twine and presents it to her as a ring. Even though he never kisses or touches Keira, her knowledge of his sexuality never goes beyond, “Alan’s a bit strange.”
Turing’s death was quite poetic, but The Imitation Game does not show that part of Alan’s story either. Instead it focuses on a dogshit voiceover; by the end the film is scrolling text across the screen that reads, “Today, we call them computers,” treating its audience as a bunch of six year olds. The Imitation Game seems intent on driving anything the slightest bit controversial or unflattering out of the man’s story, so much so that I feel I will never know whether or not Alan is a top or a bottom.
As to what actually constituted Alan Turing’s genius, The Imitation Game never seems overly concerned with that. It seems he was very good at crossword puzzles. He puts one in a newspaper in order to attract codebreakers, which is how Knightley comes into his life originally. (She has never met a dentist, at least not one she likes.) Those revolting dark eyebrows make her look slightly insane. They should never have allowed Keira to appear onscreen looking like Sweetums from the Muppets.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.