In 2020 the writer, actor, and comedian Jordan Firstman got famous on Instagram doing impressions of wonderfully mundane things. He was “banana bread’s publicist” and “the right pipe when water goes down the wrong pipe.” Everyone, even Ariana Grande, loved it. One notable exception, however, was Chilean director Sebastián Silva.
“We had dinner with our [mutual] friends and I had just gotten back from the gay beach where the movie takes place and I was talking a lot about sex and blah blah blah,” Firstman recalls to GQ. “Sebastián thought it was super annoying and bad behavior. We really did not connect at dinner in a real way at all.”After that dinner, Silva called Firstman and said: “Hey, dude, I just looked at your Instagram and it’s super embarrassing. Aren’t you embarrassed to post like that?” Still, Silva wanted to make a movie, and he wanted Firstman to be in it. “He’s like, ‘So anyway, I want to make a movie, and I want you to star in it and I want to make fun of you in a non-ironic way,'” Firstman remembers. “‘Like, I want to actually make fun of you.'”
Now that movie is out on Mubi. Rotting in the Sun—which was granted a SAG-AFTRA interim agreement that allows Firstman to do press—is a highly explicit, savvy, wild, and dark comedy starring Firstman and Silva as versions of themselves. The Sebastián Silva on screen is a depressed artist and director living in Mexico City, who is contemplating suicide when he is encouraged by his landlord to go on vacation at a nudist gay beach, where he encounters a bevy of unsimulated sexual acts to the tune of about 30 penises.
Among the sun and the dicks, Sebastian meets the gregarious Jordan, who he knows casually and for whom he has utter disdain. Despite his distaste for Jordan, Sebastian realizes that Jordan has something he needs: the attention of studio execs. Sebastian needs money so he invites Jordan over to collaborate. Only, when Jordan arrives Sebastian isn’t there (for reasons we won’t spoil). So Jordan, in between bumps of ketamine, goes into detective mode trying to figure out why everyone, including Sebastian’s nervous housekeeper (Catalina Saavedra) is acting so weird.
Rotting in the Sun was the “exact kind of thing” Firstman had always wanted to be a part of, down to the real sexual acts on display, in which he participates. He’s even been approached by Brazzers to write and direct a porn for the site, but his agents talked him out of pursuing that offer. “I just think it’s really crazy that children can see movies where people are being killed by bombs and shotguns and like Infinity War—like what the fuck is an infinity war? War forever for infinity? Like, the most amount of war for as long as possible? Those are words that children know?” he says. “But adults can’t see two people fucking on screen? That’s where we draw the line?”
At the same time, Firstman knows that talking about the nudity and the sex in the movie is all part of a good marketing strategy, even though Rotting in the Sun, which deals with themes of depression and class, is more layered than that. Inevitably, the early press out of Sundance was preoccupied with Inevitably, the press out of the Sundance premiere focused on the cocks instead of the existential questions Silva and Firstman are posing in the film, but they decided to ultimately embrace that. “People are shallow,” he says, citing the reaction to his Instagram videos. Doing his impressions and sharing “sexy secrets,” another one of his recurring bits, was a crash course in market research. “I just got to see what people like and it’s very basic, primal, dumb brain things,” he says.