'Love and Suicide'
*Contains Heavy Spoilers*
Call me crazy, but I absolutely loathed this movie. Surprisingly, it received a glowing review in AfterEllen, but personally, I had a hard time sitting through all 98 execrable minutes of it. Ordinarily, I'd prefer to write about a good film, something I can gladly recommend to other women-but I found this movie so incredibly bad that I decided to review it more as a public service than anything else.
Ostensibly 'based on a true story' and described by Netflix as 'in the style of 'Heavenly Creatures' this straight-to-video disaster is distributed by Maverick Entertainment, a company that deals in soft-core pornography. It isn't that I have a problem with that; it's their self-described claim as 'premier distributors of independent cinema' that irks me. Bloody hell-if you're porn, just say it!
One of the reasons I initially wanted to see it is that it was filmed in New Orleans. It's pretty much a given that something filmed in New Orleans is going to take advantage of the city's incredibly photogenic qualities, but except for a gratuitous school-dodging romp through the more touristy sections of the French Quarter, the rest of the action could have been filmed in any suburban locale. It was glaringly obvious that none of the cast had bothered to even attempt speaking with the correct accent. (Although, after cringing through films such as 'Cold Mountain' and Nicole Kidman's awful excuse for a Southern accent, perhaps this was a blessing in disguise!)
The story is simple: two teenage girls meet, become friends and ultimately (and when I say 'ultimately' I mean in around ten minutes) fall in love. The rebellious Emily initially mesmerizes Kaye, a newcomer to the city, and before you can say, "I saw that coming from a mile away" they are rolling around in Kaye's bed, although it's not quite clear exactly what they're doing. This is extremely soft-core, so much so that there is no nudity whatsoever; other than a lot of passionate kissing, they might as well be playing tiddly winks.
Kaye, who has recently lost her father (he was shot and killed, but we never get any more information than that) has a mother who vacillates between stern, uptight Christian and the sort of person who doesn't mind that her daughter's new best friend calls her by her first name. It's all very confusing, especially since the entire film is just a hair over 90 minutes. Emily, on the other hand, has a mother who alternates between shrieking and absolute ennui. She also has a male friend who refuses to believe that Emily can't fall in love with him. There are several sordid scenes featuring him begging, pleading and drunkenly cajoling her to 'give him one chance'-one such scene would have been sufficient. Emily eventually moves in with Kaye and her mother, Susan, who seems to have decided that being nice to Emily is what Jesus would do, or something along those lines. Everything seems to happen at warp speed; I'm guessing the budget wouldn't allow for more time, and the shifting scenes are jarring, confusing-and several times, I caught myself saying "Huh?" out loud. Neither girl was at all likable and none of the cast's performances were convincing. Not even a soundtrack featuring Ani Di Franco could redeem this awful movie.
Kaye quickly grows weary of the insults and torments of her classmates, which seem to consist solely of being pelted by scraps of paper with the word 'DYKE' scrawled on them. If I had a dollar for every time someone snarled 'dyke' in this movie, I could retire tomorrow. Kaye's emotional turmoil, which feels more like irritation than genuine dismay, eventually causes her to break off her relationship with Emily. This is where the 'suicide' of the title comes in. Seemingly overnight, Emily-who is a year ahead of Kaye in school-has graduated and without visible means of support, is living in her own apartment. Kaye, who's been spending more time in church with her mother-has gotten a part-time summer job and is dating a boy who works with her at a local coffee shop. Emily, of course, finds out. Confused by Kaye's sudden disinterest in continuing their romantic relationship, she finds a letter that Kaye is writing to her cousin. The boy is mentioned, as Kaye confides that she may want to have sex with him, and poor old Emily loses it.
She somehow manages to procure a truly awesome array of prescription drugs, which she washes down with alcohol while burning all the accumulated photos and love letters that are scattered around her supine form.
Enter Kaye, who promptly gets her into an ambulance. Despite a quantity of pills and liquor that would make Lindsey Lohan look like a rank amateur, Emily is up and about the next day. She decides to move on, after discussing the situation with a psychiatrist for roughly fifteen seconds. He reminds her that although the road ahead won't be easy, Kaye's situation may prove to be more difficult, since she's denying her sexuality-a far more dangerous act than Emily's determination to be true to herself.
Perhaps the man is a psychic rather than a shrink, because the last scene takes place-after some ominous music-ten years later. We see Kaye, looking rather ghastly, sitting in her bed and looking through old pictures of her time with Emily. Teary-eyed, she removes her wedding ring as the camera zooms in on her wedding photo. She opens a small box and gently replaces her wedding band with one that Emily gave her during their ill-starred affair. Predictably, she downs several bottles of pills with what looks like a bottle of pretty good Scotch-a waste of aged single malt, as far as I'm concerned-before leaning back and slowly closing her eyes...
Cut to Emily, looking wonderful, driving in her car. Her cell phone rings and we hear her say hello to her mother. She listens for a moment before softly saying "Kaye?"
She pulls her car over to the side of the road as the camera pans away. It's a jarringly abrupt ending, but a welcome one nonetheless.
The only things that 'Love and Suicide' and 'Heavenly Creatures' have in common are two teenage girls and some dreadfully depressing moments. And at least 'Heavenly Creatures' had Kate Winslet.
That's all until next time-when I hope to have something better to discuss. And if you do decide to rent this film, don't say you weren't warned!
'Imagine Me & You'
Before I actually say anything about this movie, I want to clarify something: I'm reviewing films with lesbian themes, or some sort of lesbian subtext. I doubt I'll be reviewing very many new releases, since, well-let's face it, there just aren't a lot of new films with lesbian themes. Some movies dance around the subject, and may contain a few references scattered here and there, but it isn't as if a flood of films is pouring out of Hollywood-or anywhere else, for that matter.
But although these films and television shows are not new, there's always someone who hasn't seen a particular movie, and may be wondering about it. So-with that disclaimer out of the way, here are some of my thoughts about 'Imagine Me & You'...
Sometimes after a bad day, you might want a treat. If it's been a really bad day, you might be in the mood for something uncomplicated yet sweet. If I had to describe this movie as a dessert, I'd call it angel food cake: light, sweet and pretty.
The story involves a recently married young woman, Rachel, (Piper Perabo) and her continuing involvement with the florist (Lena Headey) who did the flowers for her wedding. Their eyes first meet as Rachel is walking down the aisle and finds herself inexplicably drawn to Luce, who is standing off to the side. And that is one of my minor criticisms: it makes no sense that Rachel would not have met Luce prior to that moment. Every woman I've ever known who has planned a wedding has met the florist at least once or twice!
During the reception, the women have a conversation and the attraction is immediately clear. (Although I can't think of too many women I know who wouldn't be attracted to Lena Headey.) Luce ends up staying for the reception, which isn't sufficiently explained; the reason is included in the deleted scenes DVD and I think it should have been kept in the movie. Generally, the florist doesn't stay for the entire wedding, but it's important to the story, so there you go.
Ol Parker seems out to prove that love at first sight is possible and drives home this point by Rachel's moony-eyed, dreamy expression throughout the story. The two main characters are almost impossibly cute and sexy, though there is no actual sex shown onscreen. But it's a funny, sweet little film and I found it easy to remain interested in just how the two women finally work everything out. The dance scene is one of my favorite scenes in the film; you can really feel how great Rachel and Luce are together and it's easy to find yourself cheering them on, as the plot thickens, culminating in what I can only describe as the lesbian equivalent of John Cusack's famous boombox-over-the-head scene from 'Say Anything'. If I tell you anymore about it, I will ruin the ending, so in conclusion-this is not great film, but it is great fun. It's the perfect antidote to angst-filled, doomed lesbian love stories. As I said, sometimes you want something sweet and uncomplicated and pretty. And if that's what you're in the mood for, 'Imagine Me & You' may be just what you're looking for.
And I dare you not to hum the theme song once the movie is over.
'Thelma and Louise'
It's interesting for me to go back and watch a film after some time has gone by. It's also hard to believe that this film is fifteen years old, but that's more of a comment on how old it makes me feel, rather than anything to do with the movie. Enough said-on to the subtext. I'm sure there are people who will disagree and say I'm creating it where none actually exists, but comments from Susan Sarandon, who plays Louise Sawyer to Geena Davis's Thelma Dickinson, lead me to believe that I'm not making it up in my head.
From the beginning, it's obvious that the two women are very close. The relationship is not balanced: Louise is older, more cynical and a lot more familiar with how the world works. There's something in her past that affects virtually all the actions she takes and she tends to play mentor to Thelma, who is naive and sheltered and married young, to the only man she's ever had a relationship with, the buffoonish Daryl. Louise, dressing for the trip, is wearing more masculine clothes, while girlish Thelma lugs a suitcase with enough frilly pastel dresses to last far longer than a weekend.
I think most people know the basics of the plot, so I won't go into detail: the two women have planned a weekend trip and the film opens with Thelma's confession that she is afraid that Daryl won't let her go. One of the first scenes shows Louise, a waitress, at work, speaking to Thelma on the phone. Louise's manager answers the call and jokingly asks Thelma if she'll 'run away' with him. Louise takes the phone, saying, "She's running away with me!"
After Thelma has had too much to drink at a roadhouse, she has a frightening encounter with a man that ends badly. At this point the movie changes from a light-hearted 'buddy movie' to a study of two women running for their lives. Ridley Scott uses long, close-up glances between the women to underscore their need for each other-and he does this frequently. When it's time to choose going back to good guy Jimmy (Louise's boyfriend, who's never wanted to commit until he understands he'll never see her again) and the preening, egotistical bully Daryl, the women decide to stay together, regardless of the outcome.
At this point, I should mention Brad Pitt, since this was the film that helped his career take off-and it's his appearance that kick-starts something in Thelma, who is becoming more and more assertive along the way. It's fascinating to watch the changes, since they seem to happen almost spontaneously. And at a crucial part of the story, it is Thelma who steps up and takes charge, allowing Louise to let down her guard-and her hair. Thelma forsakes her former ruffles and ribbons for denim shirts and jeans. Her physical appearance becomes that of a woman with confidence; even her walk is subtly different. In spite of her one night with Pitt-where she learns that sex can be good and that robbery isn't rocket science-Thelma has bonded with Louise and it's obvious she likes herself better that way.
Callie Khouri's screenplay makes it easy to identify with the women. During the film, various male characters have lines like "Be nice... women love that shit." At one point Louise talks about Jimmy, saying "All they really want is the thrill of the chase." But the most obvious statement is Thelma's remark to Louise, after a particularly close call with the law: "Something's crossed over in me and I've never felt so alive."
Harvey Keitel is the one officer who genuinely appears to care what happens to the women, but Louise's distrust of men in general keeps him from getting too close. He is the lone male character who doesn't patronize, mock, or disrespect them. While I do think he is an excellent actor, I have to say I'm glad he doesn't have any nude scenes. (Maybe it's just me, but I've seen enough of Mr. Keitel in the buff to last a long, long time.)
During a phone call, there is a particularly affecting shot, as Susan Sarandon gazes across the road at two elderly women: you can almost hear her wishing to grow old with Thelma, and just as clearly realizing that it won't happen. There is a great deal of natural, unconscious touching of hands, hugging and meaningful gazes between the two, as they go further and further away from the confined, male-dominated lives they'd been leading when the movie began. Their one passionate kiss is bittersweet: it's an unspoken acknowledgement of their bond and their desire to be together, even when faced with the inevitable end.
So, is there subtext? I think it depends on the individual. I see it, possibly because I want it, but I honestly believe that 'Thelma and Louise' is a story of the love two women share- and their need to stay together always.