Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mini-Reviews: More Lesbian Movies

What the title says. :-) My previous list of movie reviews can be found here.

And Then Came Lola:
And Then Came Lola is a lesbian parody of Run Lola Run (which you should see.) While Run Lola Run's Lola has twenty minutes to get one hundred thousand marks to her boyfriend Manni before he robs a supermarket to pay off his debt to his crime boss before the debt's deadline (she fails twice, and time gets reset until she succeeds), Run Lola Run's Lola has an hour to get a set of photo prints to her girlfriend Casey before she leaves Lola for Danielle, the client she's meeting with. (Here too Lola fails twice, and time gets reset until she succeeds.)

Seeing Run Lola Run spun as a lesbian comedy was actually kind of fun- but the audience is meant to root for Lola to win Casey... and this movie doesn't succeed at making me do that. I thought it was lol-worthy that all Lola had to do was treat Casey and Danielle to wine, make a dinner reservation, and send a text message to make Casey suddenly think that Lola is obviously the better choice. (Hint: She's not.)

Better Than Chocolate:
Maggie is a college-aged lesbian working at a queer bookstore. She hits it off with a butchy painter named Kim who, in an early hint that this isn't a subtle movie, travels from place to place in a rainbow-colored van with a naked woman painted on its side. Kim's van gets towed while she and Maggie make out in it, so she simply must move in with Maggie. :-) (Cue the famous body-painting scene.) The day Kim moves in is the same day Maggie's mom and younger brother move to Maggie's apartment because Maggie's stepfather left them. This is an awkward living arrangement because Maggie isn't out to her family. Better Than Chocolate is a comedy, so of course things turn out happily.

This classic from the 90's has quite a few cheesy moments, but it's a fun, intentionally campy, feel-good movie. Maggie and Kim are a cute couple and there are a couple of good subplots- the queer bookstore's problems with Canadian border officials confiscating the books they import and the storyline about Maggie's older friend Judy, a trans lesbian who faces some transphobia (yikes, that bathroom scene) but gets a happy ending and a girlfriend. This movie is very much a product of its time (you'll get what I mean when you see it), but it still holds up against newer lesbian romcom offerings.

Circumstance (شرایط):
Atafeh and Shireen, both sixteen, are best friends attending the same high school in Tehran. Atafeh has the backing of her wealthy parents, while Shireen lives with an uncle because her parents were professors who "disappeared" because of their political views. Atafeh and Shireen party in the underground club scene and strike up a relationship. Things go downhill after they get arrested for driving while smoking. While Atafeh's family pays her way out of jail and her dad understands because he once did rebellious teenage things, Shireen only gets out of jail by taking the offer Atafeh's brother Mehran (a member of the Morality Police) secretly offers her- that is, to marry him. She marries Mehran, breaking Atefeh's heart, but she and Atafeh continue their relationship in secret. Everyone in Atafeh's family's liberal social circle increasingly feels the state breathing down their neck because of Mehran's zealotry, and Mehran catches Atafeh and Shireen's affair because of the security cameras he installed in his family's house.

At this point in the story, I was afraid that I was going to see the most depressing ending since Grave of the Fireflies. But I wouldn't want this movie to have a happy ending that feels inorganic or forced, either. This movie went neither route. The ending isn't happy or completely sad. But it's definitely worth watching.

Someone on Afterellen pointed out that after seeing the full movie, one could interpret the movie's opening scene as showing what ultimately happens to Atafeh and Shireen, making everything that follows a flashback. Hope that helps, if you desire a happier ending that makes sense. :-)

Leading Ladies:
Tasi and Toni are sisters with an overbearing stage mother named Sheri. Over the years, Sheri has focused on polishing Tasi's competitive ballroom-dancing skills to a sparkling sheen while relegating Toni to gopher. After Toni gets her first girlfriend, Mona, she finally starts to have her own life and eventually comes out to her mom. (It doesn't go well. Thankfully, Toni's mother comes around in a wonderful scene. Shocking, I know, that I love homophobic-parent-becomes-supportive storylines- like Emily's mother's storyline in Pretty Little Liars.) Tasi reveals that she's pregnant (Sheri initially thinks that the father is Tasi's openly gay dance partner Cedric), so Toni takes her place for an upcoming dance competition, partnering with Mona.

The characters are all surprisingly well-developed: Toni is never a complete doormat, but she really comes into her own over the course of the movie; Tasi initially seems like a brat, but we see that she resents Sheri's stage parenting as much as Toni does- she and Toni privately joke and complain about it- and she's completely supportive when Toni comes out; and for Sheri's many lousy decisions, it's clear that she does care about her daughters. Leading Ladies is another solid pick for a feel-good lesbian movie. (I dare you not to smile at the ending.)

Room in Rome (Habitación en Roma):
Alba, a Spanish tourist who's a lesbian, and Natasha, a Russian tourist who identifies as straight and hasn't been with a woman before, meet on their last night in Rome and go to Alba's hotel room. As they learn more about each other's backgrounds and interests, they click intellectually and emotionally much more than they expected and have to decide whether they'll stay in touch or not the next morning.

This movie has gotten very mixed reactions. With its touches of magical realism (i.e. the arrow scene), plentiful nudity (I can imagine this being more of a hurdle to this movie being taken seriously by audiences in the U.S. than, for example, Europe, where matter-of-fact nudity and sexuality in entertainment doesn't generally seem to ruffle people as much), and earnestness to the point of occasional cheesiness (even considering that this movie is mostly composed of bedroom talk), it definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea. But I like it. Do I believe in love at first sight (or first night)? No. Logically, this movie pushes a lot of my inner cynic's buttons. But I found myself rooting for Alba and Natasha by the end and my inner romantic squealed at the final scene. Give it a shot.

Water Lilies (Naissance des Pieuvres):
A coming-of-age film about three fifteen year-olds, taking place over a summer. Skinny Marie and slightly overweight Anne are two not-very-popular best friends. Marie has a crush on her school's synchronized swim team captain Floriane- the popular beauty who has a promiscuous reputation even though she's never actually slept with anyone. In fact, Floriane is interested in Marie and very much aware of Marie's crush, but pretends to be boy crazy. (An AE commenter wrote a great analysis of this aspect of Water Lilies here.) She's pretty and feminine, so that's what people expect from her. (More than from nerdy, unpopular Marie, at least.) Anne likes a boy named François, but he likes Floriane.

As a coming-of-age movie, Water Lilies feels heartfelt and realistic. (I will admit that years ago, I knew a Floriane- that popular girl who was like "OMG BOYS BOYS BOYS, I'M ONLY INTO BOYS, I HAVE SO MUCH EXPERIENCE WITH BOYS EVERYONE" but was...not so straight when it was just me around. As Marie figures out by the end of this film, that sort of relationship won't go anywhere.) This movie's ending, like everything else about it, was handled really well. Definitely recommended.

Yes or No (อยากรัก ก็รักเลย):
Pai finds out that her new roommate is a butchy girl named Kim. Unfortunately, Pai hates "Tom" (Thai slang for "butch") women and divides their room with tape, telling Kim to stay on her side. By just being nice Kim gets Pai to soften up, allowing them to become friends and know where this is going. Pai and Kim's dorm mate Jane also pursues Kim, while Pai's male friend Van tries to woo Pai. Of course, Jane and Van fail. Kim's family is supportive and non-homophobic, but we can see that Pai got her initially homophobic views from her mom.

Despite the coming out drama, this movie manages to be breezy and funny- and Kim and Pai are adorable together. It's a little slow towards the end, but still great. (If only it were licensed. I had to watch it via fansub. Hint hint, Wolfe Video?)

And for anyone looking forward to Pariah, Wolfe Video says it's coming out on April 24. I'm also keeping an eye out for Kiss Me (Kyss Mig), Mosquita y Mari, Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together, and Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same.


juicy planet said...

Hello lovlies!

I'm the writer/director of "Jamie and Jessie are Not Together" and you can see it in festivals around the planet AND now can Pre-Order the DVD via Amazon UK! Yay!

We will release in Germany, North America, France and Taiwan in the next 2 months. WEBSITE w/Trailer:

Katherine Hanson said...

@juicy planet- Thanks for the heads up!

Anonymous said...

gr8 reviews, looking 4ward 4 some more!!! :) :)

Katherine Hanson said...

@Anon- Thanks! :) I will be doing more live action movie posts.