Here, have some capsule reviews from the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival:
* The festival had an unofficial kickoff one week early with a benefit screening Pride, a blue collar ensemble film very much in the tradition of The Full Monty. Set in 1984, it follows a group of London queer folks who raise money to support striking miners in a small town in Wales. Pride treats everyone with respect, and displays the strength & growth that comes when marginalized groups begin to learn from each other. I laughed, I cried, I was so glad I saw it in a theater full of other queer people.
Pretty much every one of the twelve living UK actors is in it, and in a film full of many showier roles, I was particularly taken with a quiet, delicate performance from Bill Nighy. The heart of the film is the barely-out George McKay, who knocked my socks off in the devastating For Those In Peril earlier this year, and I was also quite taken with Jessica Gunning as Sian, a Welsh woman empowered by the strike and her interaction with the Londoners.
Plus, if you’ve ever wondered what Detective McNulty dancing with Dolores Umbridge might look like, Pride has got that sorted too.
* Hedwig and the Angry Inch was a treat to see as a midnight singalong, especially so soon after it was a movie of the week at The Dissolve. Here, have some links full of Hedwig thinky thoughts by smarter people: day one, day two, and day three.
* Dual was a bit of an impulsive choice, and it was oversold by a program book comparison to my beloved Before Sunrise. When Iben’s flight is cancelled, she easily convinces Tina to kick around town overnight. Both actresses are appealing, but the film is full of moments that would never happen and decisions that real people would never make. All of this is summed up in a scene where they play with a box full of kittens mysteriously left in a boxcar because the plot demanded it be so and for no other apparent reason. Cute in places, but wholly unbelievable, and not in a Hollywood trope sort of way.
* In the Turn is a tricky one. It’s a documentary about…ah. Therein lies the issue. It’s sort of a documentary about the Vagine Regime, a loosely affiliated worldwide group of queer & queer-friendly roller derby folks, and it seems as if they decided to start shooting a documentary and hoped a story would emerge in editing. Sometimes that works, but this time it didn’t so much.
However, it’s an important piece because it amplifies the voices of multiple transgender people, including a young trans girl. Far too often in this sort of thing there’s a token trans voice (if even that!), but In the Turn includes several trans voices and thus several trans stories, and that has huge value.
* The Closing Night film, Life Partners is what happens to an intense friendship when one person in it acquires a serious partner. Starring Leighton Meester, Gillian Jacobs, and Adam Brody, it was cute enough, but Frances Ha did the same thing but better (Oh, I hear you say, but Frances Ha wasn’t a queer movie, to which I reply, that’s only because you haven’t seen it with me). Life Partners also totally wasted Gabourey Sidibe, not giving her anything to do other than deliver one liners over a Bloody Mary.
It certainly had some moments that rang true, and I appreciated the fact that, like in Bridesmaids there’s never a question if the guy is right for the girl. Adam Brody is much more appealing (to me, anyway) than Dougie was, but the point of both films is the inevitable changing relationship between the girls. I’m a sucker for that story, because I wind up living it over and over again, and eventually I’d like to learn to live it better.
As a bonus, there were two films in the program which I saw when they screened at SIFF earlier in the year.
* The Circle is another of those films which I’m not sure is entirely successful, blending as it does documentary footage and re-enactment. However, it tells an important story about early queer activism via a 1950s gay rights organization in Zurich, and the present day interview footage of a couple who met through the group is utterly charming.
* And speaking of charming, The Way He Looks charmed my socks right off. It’s a Brazilian coming-of-age movie about Leonardo, a blind teenager who is trying to navigate his relationships with his overprotective family and his best friend as he’s yearning for a bit more freedom. This all gets more challenging when a new student joins their class. I’m always all in for a good boy-girl friendship, plus the honest portrayal of how a new relationship, no matter how great it is, can be painful for the one suddenly on the outside. As we saw above. It’s a theme.
While I’m at it, here are the other queer films I’ve loved this year that I can remember at the moment: Lilting (a quietly beautiful cross-culture film about grief, a new sort of coming out story in the vein of Undertow), The Skeleton Twins (obviously), Love Is Strange, and the Swedish miniseries Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves. Lotsa boy movies. That’s just the way it is, unfortunately. The closest thing to a girl movie is probably Obvious Child, but I definitely recommend that too.