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‘Come As You Are’ freshens up the road-trip cliches

Shot in Illinois, the charmer about men with disabilities earns its laughs and tears.

Hayden Szeto (from left), Grant Rosenmeyer and Ravi Patel play men with disabilities who team up for a road trip to a bordello in “Come As You Are.”
Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

It’s all about the remakes this week, as no fewer than four new movies and/or streaming series are based on previous releases.

In addition to the supernatural reboot of “Fantasy Island” and the Hulu streaming series cover of “High Fidelity,” we have Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell starring in “Downhill” (a remake of the 2014 Swedish film “Force Majeure”) — and “Come As You Are,” based on the 2011 Belgian film “Hasta la Vista.”

If only all remakes and reboots and retakes and restarts were as funny as charming and lovely and moving as this one.

The premise of this movie is fraught with peril, as they used to say and, apparently, I’m still saying it. It’s built on two potentially hackneyed and all too familiar set-ups: the road trip movie and the wacky comedy about colorful characters with disabilities who teach us all a lesson.

Thanks to the smart and knowing screenplay by Erik Linthorst, sharp and well-paced and fuss-free direction from Richard Wong and a quartet of fine actors at the top of their games, “Come As You Are” is alternately laugh-out-loud funny and reach-for-the-tissues emotional without resorting to maudlin manipulations or shameless grabs for laughs.

Oh sure, many of the clichés of the genre are visited here. Every road trip movie has to include a good number of bumps in the road; if not, you don’t really have a road movie. But “Come As You Are” has a wonderful way of making even the most obvious situations seem fresh and funny and original.

Grant Rosenmeyer (“The Royal Tennenbaums,” the FOX sitcom “Oliver Beene”) is Scotty, a 24-year-old paraplegic who uses acidic wit as a defense shield. Scotty lives in a ranch home in Colorado with his chatterbox, no-nonsense mom Liz (Janeane Garofalo), who brushes aside Scotty’s sarcastic remarks as she tends to her son.

“I’m 24 years old, you’re washing my b----,” Scotty says with a sneer as his mother gives him a bath. “[This] is perfectly normal.”

Scotty (Grant Rosemeyer) gets an assist from his mother, Liz (Janeane Garofalo), in “Come As You Are.”
Samuel Goldwyn Pictures

Mom ignores him and continues, because she’s a damn saint although she’d tell you to knock it off with that nonsense.

Ravi Patel is Mo, a 35-year-old blind employee at the physical therapy clinic Scotty frequents nearly every day. Hayden Szeto is Matt, a handsome former athlete who lost the use of his legs due to an unspecified degenerative condition — but still is able to use his arms, which leads the resentful Scotty to dub him “Biceps.”

(In a heartbreaking scene early on, Matt visits his girlfriend at the library, where she’s with a study buddy who might have become more than a buddy. The girlfriend doesn’t have to blurt anything as direct as, “We’re breaking up.” She simply says, “I have to start thinking about my future,” and we know exactly what she means.)

Scotty is a virgin and he wants to do something about it. He learns about a bordello in Montreal called Le Chateau Paradis that caters to clients with disabilities.

In a promotional video, we see the proprietor of the bordello (played by Asta Philpot, whose real-life journey is the inspiration for the movie.)

“Bonjour!” he says. “Come as you are!”

All righty then!

Scott talks Mo and Matt into joining him on the trek from Colorado to Quebec in a rental van driven by a nurse named Sam (Gabourey Sidibe), who has at first has little patience for these horny goofballs, as when she tells Scotty, “You call me sweetheart one more time, I’m gonna bust you in the face.”

Nurse Sam (Gabourey Sidibe) drives the van rented by Mo (Ravi Patel) and his traveling companions.
Samuel Goldwyn Films

Eventually, and unsurprisingly, Sam becomes quite attached to this trio (in particular Mo) over the course of a rollicking journey that includes quite a bit of drinking, a bar fight and an encounter with a state trooper, to mention just a few classic road trip moments.

Oh, and the guys neglected to tell their families about this little excursion. When the parents et al. find out, they set off in hot pursuit, determined to put an end to this crazy and dangerous field trip.

Even though “Come As You Are” covers hundreds of miles, it was shot entirely within Illinois borders, at locations ranging from Gurnee to Waukegan to the Long Grove Community Church to the Iron Horse Restaurant to the Hilltop Family Restaurant to downtown Chicago. It’s a great-looking film, with excellent use of locations, and first-rate editing.

Rosenmeyer, Szeto and Patel have terrific buddy-movie chemistry. Gabourey Sidibe is a force of nature as the fierce and funny and lovely Sam. In relatively little screen time, Janeane Garofalo creates a fully realized character worthy of her own movie.

“Come As You Are” is a little film that deserves a big audience.