"I don't need prayed for... YOU need prayed for!
A tale of Arthur's quest to get married to his hunky boyfriend Ben, in the face of opposition from Arthur's psychotically homophobic brother Victor, Victor's psychotically homophobic church buddies, Ben's psychotically homophobic wife, and a legal system which is just as psychotically homophobic as...something very homophobic.
A labor of love for writer-director-star Sam Mraovich, which quickly became a magnet for Snark Bait
in the wake of its release, and has been likened to "a gay version of The Room
" — though in actual fact it was released a year before Tommy Wiseau's epic
— thanks to its minimal production values
, entertainingly dreadful acting, and one of the most unsubtle deliveries of its message outside of a 1950s propaganda film.
Ben and Arthur provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Gay: Victor. Word of God is that Victor actually is gay, though in complete denial about it, but the film doesn't do a very good job of making it clear.
- Artistic License - Religion:
- Holy water is water that has been blessed by a priest. Chemically speaking, it's ordinary water. Sam Mraovich, however, believes that holy water is concocted through a recipe.
- The church, which is meant to be a strict fundamentalist Catholic church (so much so that the congregation protests about the brother of a gay man attending until he's forced from the church by a priest), takes the ideas of karma and negative energy seriously.
- Specifically, "negative energy" is a concept whose definition varies between esoteric groups, while "karma" is a belief found in religions whose origins stem from India (e.g. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism). Neither concept is discussed in the Bible and you would be hard pressed to find any Christian denomination that teaches them.
- While Victor is clearly seen entering and leaving a Catholic church, much of what he espouses, especially regarding the need to be "saved", is more aligned with Protestant teachings.
- Christians are OK with hiring hitmen to kill gay people, and priests in fact have contact info for them they can give you if you request it.
- Upon fatally shooting Ben, Victor claims that killing him "saved his soul". If anyone in this film actually cared about real dogma, they'd realize killing Ben without giving him a chance to repent of his sins wouldn't be doing his soul any favors.
- Author Avatar: Arthur is pretty obviously a raisonneur for Sam Mraovich, though apparently some of Ben's backstory is also that of Mraovich.
- Author Filibuster: The whole film really, but Arthur's speech about how he wouldn't want to fight for his country if he can't get married in it stands out in particular.
- Bury Your Gays: Both of the title characters, plus Victor and the attorney if you go by Word of God.
- California Doubling: A Los Angeles park, for a park in Vermont. It doesn't work too well, since Vermont isn't known for its palm trees.
- Camp Straight: Victor.
- Captain's Log: Arthur writes an entry in his diary, in the only scene throughout the film where we see him do this. The film reveals the entry's contents through a voiceover, which describe actions that occur in the next scene anyway.
- Chekhov's Gun: Attempted with the gun which Ben's ex-wife threatens him with, which ends up being found by Arthur in the film's climax, and used to kill Victor. Amusingly, a mistake ends up switching gun props, creating the impression that Victor opened the drawer with Tammy's Beretta, decided he liked it better, and took it while leaving his dressed-up water pistol in the drawer for Arthur to find.
- Church of Happyology: Victor's church comes across this way, even though it's probably supposed to be of a standard Christian denomination (despite serious mentions of Victor bringing bad karma and negative energy by being related to a homosexual). The congregants believe that Victor's brother being gay will somehow turn their children into homosexuals, and the priest encourages Victor to kill Arthur in order to get into heaven. Even Arthur, who isn't a fan of religion, regards this as being one monumentally screwed-up church.
- Clueless Aesop: Good message. Absolutely no idea how to deliver it well.
- Cluster F-Bomb:
- The priest, of all people, gives one as he looks for white-out in his office.
- Victor becomes a fountain of F-words in his bedroom after the priest kicks him out of the church.
- Coitus Ensues: Ben and Arthur, after returning from their tense dinner with Victor and Stan.
- Covers Always Lie: The cover implies that Ben is the main character, but in reality he has way less screentime than Arthur does. More glaringly however, the "Holy Soldier" mentioned in the tagline wins, even if it does turn out to be a Pyrrhic Victory in the end.
- Cure Your Gays: Attempted, but utterly failed by Victor on several different occasions.
- Depraved Homosexual: Arthur turns into this at the end of the film, when he threatens to rape Victor at gunpoint, before the two fatally shoot each other.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him:
- Ben gets shot dead with about ten minutes to go, then just gets kinda forgotten about for the remainder of the film's running time.
- The Attorney only gets mentioned twice after her death, and the whole subplot about launching a lawsuit against the state of California is completely forgotten about.
- Evil Plan: There are actually three of them: The first, where Victor and Stan attempt to "cure" Arthur; the second, which is called the "Final Plan" and is never elaborated upon; and the third, which is known as the "Final Deed" that calls for the death of Arthur.
- Experimented in College: Inverted; Ben experimented with the idea of being heterosexual in college, and ended up getting married as a result.
- Fan Disservice: The pudgy, balding, pasty-colored Arthur is nude when he is baptized by Victor and later when he is left sprawled across his own bed.
- Flat "What.": Arthur gives this when he learns that Ben is actually finishing up his divorce with Tammy.
- Halfway Plot Switch: The first half of the film features Ben and Arthur trying to have the state of California legally recognize their marriage; the second half focuses on Ben and Arthur dodging the sinister machinations of Arthur's brother Victor.
- Get Out: Victor enter his own apartment and suddenly finds Arthur inside. After a brief confrontation, Victor brandishes a gun and orders him out.
- Heteronormative Crusader: Victor and Stan.
- Hollywood Atheist: A rather strange aversion, since Arthur does fit most of the usual criteria for a Hollywood Atheist, but his positions are obviously those of Sam Mraovich himself.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: In the film's climax, Victor shoots Arthur seven times, but Arthur hangs on long enough to fire off a single shot at Victor — which hits him right in the forehead, killing him instantly.
- Informed Ability: Ben is supposed to be both a nurse and a musician, but is never seen practicing either (if you don't count a brief moment during his honeymoon with Arthur when Ben is called in to work as a nurse). Instead, Ben works at a café washing paper cups with Arthur, with the pretext that he left his nursing job to focus on his music.
- Informed Attribute: Mildred is supposed to be Ben and Arthur's neighbor, and (surprise, surprise) psychotically homophobic. This is never made clear on-screen however, meaning she gets pissy with Arthur at the coffee shop for no obvious reason (and in fact comes off as justifiably angry at Arthur's unenthusiastic service), then later turns up without any explanation at Ben and Arthur's apartment to tell them of the bike theft, with Arthur amusingly slamming the door in her face before she even finishes speaking.
- Insane Troll Logic: Tammy, trying to get Ben to call off the divorce at gunpoint. And if he really is gay, then she'll just be gay too and then it'll be okay for them to get married again, huh?
- Kill 'em All: Ben, Arthur, Victor, the priest at Victor's church, and the attorney. In fact, the only survivor who actually has any bearing on the plot is Tammy.
- Kill It with Fire: The priest at Victor's church, who is torched by Arthur, using what is supposed to be liquid fuel but is probably water. Subverted in that, while a match is lit, we never actually see the fire or even hints of one.
- Leave the Camera Running: Why oh why is it important to see Arthur vacuum his carpet after Victor visits and admonishes him?
- Motive Decay: Despite explicitly plotting to kill both Ben and Arthur during the last act, for some reason Victor decides at the last minute to just kill Ben, then baptize Arthur in an attempt to cure him of being gay.
- Mr. Fanservice: Ben, who appears shirtless several times and tends to wear sweaters that show off actor Jamie Brett Gabel's body pretty well. Arthur also wears some very revealing outfits and has a rear-nude scene, though whether you'd actually want to see Sam Mraovich naked is a different matter entirely.
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Victor believes he must perform the "Final Deed" by killing Arthur in order for the church to readmit him. Far from dissuading Victor, the priest gives Victor a phone number for an assassin that can do the job. The assassin succeeds in killing Ben... except that Ben is later seen as to have survived the attempt, but missed out on killing Arthur, who was away on errands. On the second attempt, Victor takes the assassin with him, only to dispense with his services when both of them are already in the building. Victor then enters Ben and Arthur's apartment alone to (permanently) kill Ben and, later, baptise and kill Arthur.
- This should not be confused with the "Final Plan", which Victor mentions after he learns that Ben and Arthur did not ingest the potion but before he is expelled from the church, meaning that there would have been no incentive to kill Arthur during that span of time.
- Name and Name: Somewhat misleadingly, since the film isn't really about Ben and Arthur's relationship so much as Victor's attempts to turn Arthur straight and later kill him and Ben.
- No Accounting for Taste: The second type; as the film progresses, we never learn why Ben would stay in a relationship with an irritating, thoroughly unattractive man like Arthur, or what virtues make Arthur an otherwise worthwhile love interest.
- Only Sane Man: Ben is probably the nearest to this. Arthur is the one who's actually meant to occupy the role, but he doesn't do it very well, especially when he burns the priest alive.
- Precision F-Strike: Victor and Arthur each trade one when they dine together.
Victor: You know what? I'm never gonna have any nieces or nephews ever, because, you know what?, you're so fucked up, you know that?
Arthur: Yooooou FUCK! How dare you talk to brother like that.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Tammy. Granted, one could see how she was being pissed off as being used as The Beard for several years, but screaming in his face, refusing to divorce him, and threatening him at gunpoint to stay married is a bit much.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: More specifically, about two-thirds public domain music, and one third synthesised loops contributed by Sam Mraovich.
- Punch Clock Villain: Insomuch as he counts as a villain, the intern private investigator specifically says that he has no problem with gay people (and possibly not even gay marriage), and is only taking Victor's job because his boss told him to.
- Rant Inducing Slight: After Ben yells at Arthur for failing to lock up their bike, which resulted in its theft — something which Ben immediately apologizes for doing, and admits was an overreaction — Arthur goes on a rant at him, accusing him of being ashamed of being gay, too embarrassed to show Arthur affection in public, and that he wouldn't even care if Arthur died. Not entirely surprisingly, this provokes Ben into punching Arthur.
- Serious Business:
- Ben gets really upset when Arthur forgets to lock up their bike, resulting in it being stolen.
- Turned Up to Eleven by Victor, who is so determined to turn Arthur straight that he ends up murdering the attorney, and later Ben.
- Sinister Minister: The priest of Victor's church.
- Stock Footage: The journey to and from Vermont is represented by stock footage of a cargo plane.
- Straight Gay: Both Ben and Arthur. Yes, we have a film where two of the three main characters are Straight Gay, and the third is Camp Straight.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Husband: Arthur and Ben, respectively, although they're not married.
- Unexplained Recovery / Back from the Dead: Ben. Even though Victor's assassin clearly killed Ben, Arthur is later seen carrying a weak but very much alive Ben into their apartment. This is despite coming home from the hospital, where Ben should have ostensibly received better care.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Several characters disappear as the film goes on, most notably Tammy (last seen being run out by Ben and losing her gun), the cop investigating the initial, unsuccessful attempt on Ben's life (questions a few characters, then leaves), and the (intern) private investigator that Victor hires (does one job, then leaves).
- Worst News Judgement Ever: While the overturning of Hawaii's decision to legalise gay marriage would be a pretty significant event, it's highly doubtful that any California newspaper — at least at the time that the film was made — would run it as their front page story. Had the film been released a decade later however, odds are it'd be a much lesser example of this trope thanks to the controversy around Proposition 8.