All I knew about this going in was that is had three things I really like: airplanes, Glen Powell, and Johnathan Majors. And I loved the opening sequence with the Bearcats! They’re so cute! I want to put one of them on my keychain! So I figured we were settling in for a movie about Bearcats in the Korean War. Cool by me. Let’s do this. Bearcat porn wouldn’t be my first choice, but I’ll take it.
But then there’s a scene when the sardonic commanding officer is giving some exposition. Something about Russia, but I wasn’t paying attention, because while he’s talking, an actual F4U Corsair taxis up behind him and parks.
At that point, my inner 10-year-old flipped out.
I lost my shit and starting running around the room, all but bouncing off the walls, holding my arms out at my sides – but cocked downward to resemble the inverted gull wings of an F4U – and making airplane noises, reciting gibberish prayers to Robert Conrad, Pratt & Whitney, and all the Vought aerospace companies. It’s an actual F4U, those lines, those curves and that deep blue, those jauntily cocked wings, that massive propellor, the cozy little bubble canopy. OH. MY. GOD. THIS. IS. THE. BEST.
I had assumed from the year 1950 this was going to be a movie about jets tangling in MiG Alley, which would have been fine by me. But it was about ground support with Corsairs! It was about one of the airplanes that seared itself into my brain when I was a kid. But unlike the A-10, the B-25, the B-17, or the Bf-109, all of which came to be meaningful to me for historical or technical reasons, I responded to the F4U because of a dumb TV series called Baa Baa Black Sheep, much the same way other kids might care about Airwolf or a Transformer or a He-Man or a Captain America. The Corsair was a fixture of my childhood, and only later would I fill in the blanks about what it actually was, what it could actually do, what it actually did. So, yeah, I lost my shit when a Corsair rolled on screen, brought along some of its buddies, and took over the rest of the movie. They made this movie just for me!
I especially liked how the movie accurately modeled the Corsair’s tendency to pull to the right and veer into uncontrollable melodrama. Furthermore, when subjected to the stress of successive escalating action sequences, the Corsair’s airframe was liable to buckle and give way to CG sequences of implausible nonsense common in these kinds of aircraft movies. So props to Devotion for accuracy on that front. I didn’t mind so much. Just give me another glimpse of those majestic idiosyncratic beasts soaring over the ocean and the snowy mountains, settling down onto carrier decks or rising into the sky. I’m in heaven…
Because I didn’t know what kind of movie this was, allow me to confess what I thought I was watching for probably about a half hour or so. When Glen Powell and Johnathan Majors first meet, in the locker room, I honest-to-god thought they were gay. I thought – incorrectly – that the movie was taking pains to show us they’re both unmarried, that Majors is somewhat alienated from the rest of the squadron. And there was a weird sort of tension/attraction between them that I guess was supposed to be some sort of 50s machismo? But to me it felt like the kind of buttoned up emotion from movies like Carol, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, which explores the taboo of homosexuality during other times.
So when Glen Powell keeps dropping items, I thought he was flirting! He drops the class ring and the wool cap, and I thought they were intentionally dropped for Majors to pick up and comment on, like something they were doing as a couple. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that I think both men are drop-dead gorgeous, and I don’t see how anyone can watch Everybody Wants Some!! without crushing hard on Powell, and I’m totally comfortable saying these things as a straight man! So I’m rooting for them to get together, and I’m a little surprised so much manly airplane porn is being stirred into a movie about gay relationships, but I’m all for doing whatever it takes to drag airplane fans into a better understanding of the myriad elements of the human condition.
So when Majors sneaks into someone’s house and shushes a baby and then ambushes some woman from behind, I was briefly very confused. Oh, that’s his wife? He’s married? So it’s a movie about a bisexual man in the 1950s? Because when Majors’ car breaks down and Powell picks him up at the side of the road, I figured it was going to be about a gay couple in an even more forbidden than usual relationship! Which I guess it already was what with them being inter-racial, but now one of them is even married! I mean, otherwise, why would it be called “Devotion”? Surely this isn’t just a movie about airmen being men?
Of course, I was wrong, and there’s nothing subversive here. Even the racism stuff is safely removed from the main characters, which I kind of appreciate in terms of entertainment value, but it made for a pretty facile script.
So that was my experience with Devotion. Loved the cast, especially the Corsairs, but I wished it hadn’t devolved into cheap melodrama and dumb CG. But I had a great time and it was so cool to get reacquainted with a childhood friend.
And I still want a Bearcat on my keychain.