Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Handsome Devil, or: Rugby, Bloody Rugby

I’m not going to lie: I watched season 2 of Derry Girls way too quickly and have so many regrets. Where will I get my fix of lovely Irish accents and teenage hijinks now??? Luckily, it’s free for all month on the Blog Collab, and this week’s film checks all of those boxes and then some. Including rugby…?

The Film:

Handsome Devil

The Premise:

As seemingly the only boy at his school not obsessed with rugby, Ned is a loner who definitely doesn’t care to befriend his new roommate, transfer student and team captain Connor.

The Ramble:

The new school year is beginning at an elite Irish boarding school, and loner Ned is less than thrilled. Openly gay and openly not a fan of rugby, Ned has very few fans and quite a few bullies. Though clever, Ned chooses a quiet life of underachieving rather than expending much effort in class. Instead of writing personal poems for class, he opts for using lyrics from ’70s and ’80s alternative rock songs his stuffy English teacher will never recognize.

Things are looking up when Ned surprisingly gets his own room for the year; however, it’s not long before transfer student Connor becomes his roomie. Expelled from his previous school for fighting and immediately crowned rugby captain of the new school, it seems Connor and Ned will never get along, let alone become friends. Ned decides to preempt any rejection from Connor by putting up a wall dividing their two sides of the room.

When a new English teacher Mr. Sherry (played by Andrew Scott, Moriarty from Sherlock, Sexy Priest from Fleabag, and Irish dreamboat) arrives at the school, he brings some big changes. Taking no shit, Mr. Sherry makes it clear bullying and homophobia will not be tolerated–nor will Ned’s habit of using others’ voices instead of his own.

After Ned and Connor bond over their shared interest in music, Ned takes the wall down. The two finally become friends when Mr Sherry encourages them to enter a talent show. However, guitar practice begins to interfere with rugby practice, which does not please the team.

The distraction isn’t enough to set the team back, and the lads all go out for celebratory drinks after a win. Hoping to surprise Connor with his interest in the rugby team’s victory, Ned glimpses his roomie entering a gay bar. There, Connor runs into none other than Mr. Sherry cozying up with his partner. Mr. Sherry becomes something of a sounding board for Connor, and the relationship between the two is quite sweet.

The school’s homophobic rugby coach is none too happy about all of this distracting Connor from his commitment to the team. As Connor is very much in the closet, coach (I can’t be bothered to look up his name) depends on his anxiety about being associated with his gay roomie in order to drive them apart. Connor leaves Ned hanging before their talent show performance, and thus shots are fired.

All of this changes during a pep rally in which Ned is targeted by the rugby team to cheer. Angry with Connor and the entire team, Ned outs his roommate to the whole school at this point.

After this incident, Ned is expelled and Connor goes missing. Is there any way for the friendship between these two roomies to bounce back after this?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is quite a sweet addition to the LGBTQ high school genre. I really appreciate that the message is about friendship and acceptance rather than the only two gay kids in school magically being perfect soulmates. Ned and Connor are great friends, but there is never a sense that being gay and roommates means they’re meant to be romantically involved.

I also appreciate the way the film handles multiple identities and the ways we belong to different groups because of and in spite of them. Sometimes opting out because your group, team, community is imperfect robs you of the opportunity to enjoy and improve them. And the teachers in this film have things to learn from their students, without (all of them) coming across as completely incompetent.

The oddness of the film is that it’s told from Ned’s perspective even though the story is mostly about Connor. This has potential as Ned is a cute ginger and certainly grows as a character throughout the course of the film; however, Connor comes through all of this looking much better and acting like less of a jerk. I don’t feel that Ned’s outing of Connor is set up well enough in the film, so Ned ultimately looks very petty and vindictive. Not okay to out someone, and especially not out of malice.

I think it goes without saying that Andrew Scott is great in this, though our two young leads deserve a lot of credit. BTW, Roose Bolton is in this, being appropriately scummy as the rugby-obsessed headmaster determined to recapture his youth. Just in case that convinces you to watch (or not watch).

Would my dream roomie sing a duet with this one or tackle it immediately? Find out in her review here!

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two shirtless men sleep side by side with arms around each other
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Am Michael, or: To Be Gay or Not to Be

What sounds like a more interesting film:  one in which a legendary Chilean poet evades the law and narrowly escapes the cops or one about a man who moves to Canada and leans into Christian fundamentalism?  Subjectivity aside, the latter also features Zachary Quinto’s excellent eyebrow acting and the approach of a Lifetime movie to its subject matter.  And honestly, a film earns a lot of credit from me when it avoids heavy-handed narration.

The Film:

I Am Michael

The Premise:

The story of a gay activist who ultimately rejects his sexuality in favor of Christianity.

The Ramble:

“If you’re a moral person, you’ll choose to be straight.”  Not exactly the opener you’d expect for a film about a gay activist.  Except this activist is Michael Glatze, a man who edited a gay magazine in San Francisco before renouncing his sexuality in favor of Christianity.  That’s a lot to process, no?  Let’s back up a few years.

Before coming out as straight, Michael (played by James Franco) was in a serious relationship with love of my life Spock Zachary Quinto Bennett.  Michael is very much part of the gay community:  attending all-night raves, mourning traumatic events including the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Three men cheer amidst a larger group of people at a club. The men are wearing glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets as accessories.

When Bennett gets a job in Halifax, Michael’s life changes dramatically.  Instead of dedicating his time to the magazine, he gives talks to local schools, writes a lot of blog content, and eventually begins working in a soul-crushing office job.

After a year passes, Michael doesn’t feel any better adjusted to his new life.  When he fights with Bennett, Michael goes off in search of dudes, and picks up a cute young guy named Tyler.  Michael and Bennett begin an open relationship with Tyler, eventually traveling across the country with him to complete a documentary.

Two men walk through a meadow of white wildflowers. The man in front holds a flower and wears a backwards red baseball cap, blue t-shirt and jeans. The man behind him has blond hair, and wears a red t-shirt and jeans.

While filming the documentary about queer youth in the U.S., the three encounter a gay student at Liberty University (I’m sorry, but gross gross gross gross gross; I’m so creeped out by Liberty).  Though he identifies as gay, the student embraces his Christian identity and begins praying with his troubled friend.

Michael begins to wonder if he can have it all, identifying as both a gay man and a Christian.  However, he opts for living quietly with his doubts, going to church and reading the Bible in secret.

A group of people meditate on rugs in a large room with wooden floors and walls. They sit with crossed legs and eyes closed, and a man in a blue tank top and black shorts is the most prominent.

Meanwhile, Michael becomes increasingly preoccupied with his mortality and fears above all that the afterlife is just nothingness.  After a panic attack, he becomes convinced he has the heart condition that killed his father.

When he insists there’s a lot of love in the Bible, Michael earns some eyebrow raises from Bennett and Tyler.  He explores the Mormon church and Buddhism, drawn to their clear visions of the afterlife and potential to solve his so-called homosexual problem.  After moving out, he claims he is no longer gay.

What’s up with that?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

There’s something about this film that stays with me.  It may not be brilliant, but Zachary Quinto is great as ever and even James Franco gives a decent performance.  Possibly because he plays a character who’s a bit of an asshole?

It makes me sad that Michael broke Bennett’s heart, and it’s disturbing to think about the number of people who still have to lie about who they are in order to have the job and life they want.  To be clear:  I do not sympathize with people who claim they’re persecuted for their Christian beliefs in predominantly Christian nations.  It’s also troubling how Michael buys into the false dichotomy of being part of gay culture or living as the squarest straight dude alive.  I like to think we’re getting better at recognizing the many different ways to identify as LGBTQ, but clearly we still have a long way to go.

Narratively, I wish we’d spent a little more time on the impact of Michael’s actions on Bennett and the gay community as a whole.  I don’t really care if someone’s sexual orientation changes (though obv the idea that you can choose this is problematic AF), but the really shitty thing Michael did was perpetuate a horrible culture that tells young people their sexuality is a sin to be corrected.  I also feel we could use some more insight into Michael’s interiority while recognizing that I don’t ever want to know what’s really going on inside this guy’s head.

The only thing certain is that blonde James Franco is the douchiest James Franco.

Would my blog wife accept this one as it is or ditch it faster than a blonde James Franco?  Read her review here to find out!

eight men and women are arranged in a row as they sing emotively
TV Reviews

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, or: I’m Clearly Not Over You Yet

It’s the end of an era.  The last episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend aired on Friday, April 5:  an ep to conclude the show’s storyline and a live special filmed in LA.  I’m so pleased the show’s creators were able to bring things to a close on their own terms, but it’s still hard to let go.  While far from perfect, CEG is one of my favorite shows in recent memory, featuring a flawed heroine, a cast of memorable supporting characters, and messages about self-acceptance, mental health, sexuality, reproductive health, and the power of female friendship — all told through songs at once hilarious and heartfelt.  I’m going to miss this show.

I’ve seen so many lists ranking the best songs of the series, but this is impossible for me to do.  I’d still like to reflect on the songs and their importance to the show’s themes, so I’ll list some of my favorite songs by category instead.  Here we go!

Female solidarity

“Friendtopia” – the Spice Girls parody/tribute is incredible here, and I wish more songs about girl power involved literal revolutionary action.  Favorite lyric:  “When my friends and I stick together, there’s nothing we can’t do / And when I say that I specifically mean we’re gonna stage a coup.”

“Let’s Generalize About Men” – the fab ’80s style is everything to me, and I appreciate so much how the show crafts songs that support women while simultaneously calling them out.  Among other things, this song draws attention to the problematic gay best friend stereotype.  Favorite lyric:  “Gay men are all really great, every single one / They’re never mean, just sassy / They’re all completely adorable and fun.”

four women dressed in colorful 1980s style dress suits sing the words "Let's generalize about men"

“Women Gotta Stick Together” – while I’m glad Valencia stuck around as a character and experienced growth, I love her thoroughly bitchy early songs.  Though claiming to be about female solidarity, Valencia uses feminism here to remind others of their flaws, a smile pasted on her face throughout.  Favorite lyric: “Women have the power, the power to make a change / Like this girl should pluck her eyebrows, and those jeans should be exchanged.”

“Feelin’ Kinda Naughty” – the show is great at pointing out the creepy underpinnings of so many relationships.  While parodying the fetishization of lesbian relationships, CEG also highlights another way women can convince themselves their bad behavior is somehow female solidarity.  Favorite lyric:  “I want to kill you and wear your skin like a dress / But then also have you see me in that dress / And be like, ‘OMG, you look so cute in my skin.'”

Wallowing a little too hard at your own pity party

“You Stupid Bitch” – this was a real turning point in the show for me; I felt this song so personally and both appreciated that and felt way too exposed.  Favorite lyric:  “These shards are a metaphor for my soul / Can’t stop the self-pity ‘cause I’m on a roll.”

“Tell Me I’m OK” – I hate how accurate these songs are; Rebecca needing assurance from random strangers that she’s normal, and convinced that everyone else knows inherently how to come across as normal.  Favorite lyric: “Seriously, Patrick, was I sick in school the day they taught you how to be a normal person? / It just feels like there’s something fundamental I’m missing out on / Like, is there an instruction manual?”

“Santa Ana Winds” – Rebecca uses the Santa Ana Winds as an excuse for her behavior rather than taking responsibility; she also manages to make herself the center of everything by convincing herself the Sana Ana Winds are out to get her personally.  Eric Michael Roy’s performance absolutely makes this song. Favorite lyric:  “I’m mystical but also carry dangerous spores / I bring whimsy and forest fires.”

a man dressed in a suit dances along the road as cars are backed up along both sides

“The End of the Movie” – another song I wish I didn’t relate to so hard; I just feel like life is supposed to make way more sense than it does.  Plus the Josh Groban cameo is perfectly executed.  Favorite lyric:  “If you saw a movie that was like real life, you’d be like ‘What the hell was that movie about? It was really all over the place’ / Life doesn’t make narrative sense.”

“No One Else Is Singing My Song” – oof, this one hurts because I know I’ve been guilty of wallowing in my own self-pity to the point I’m convinced no one could possibly ever relate to what I’m feeling.  CEG plays this up perfectly in this song, emphasizing that a lot of Rebecca’s isolation is self-inflicted.  Favorite lyric:  “Have you ever been far from home / So scared you had to roam / And now you’re beaten and tired with no one to call a friend (He doesn’t count).”

The power of self-delusion

“West Covina” – so many of Rebecca’s problems come from this place of seeing exactly what she wants to see while denying the reality of the situation.  Favorite lyric: “My life’s about to change, oh my gosh / Because I’m desperately, hopelessly in love with…West Covina.”

“I’m a Good Person” – the uncensored version is everything to me.  Once again, Rebecca looks to others for validation while completely deceiving herself.  Favorite lyric: “Newsflash, fuckwads, I’m a good person / Do what I can for you all the time.”

“Nothing Is Ever Anyone’s Fault” – Rebecca gets so close to self-actualization here, recognizing that her trauma and mistakes have shaped who she is.  Unfortunately, she and Nathaniel are blindly determined to blame their parents for all that has gone wrong in their lives.  Favorite lyric:  “It wasn’t technically Hitler’s fault / Hitler’s brother died and that made him super sad.”

“A Diagnosis” – getting an accurate diagnosis is a huge step for Rebecca, but it’s not going to be an easy journey.  Again, she gets so close to the point, yet misses it entirely, believing that the diagnosis equates to a solution to her problems.  Favorite lyric: “With a diagnosis, I’m ready to blow this joint / And by joint I mean my inner sense of confusion (You said that confusingly).”

a woman in a clinic wears a yellow dress and sings the words "A diagnosis"

“After Everything I’ve Done for You” – poor Paula is just trying to vicariously live out her romantic fantasies through Rebecca, so who can blame her for getting a bit upset when her scheming yields no results?  As this song demonstrates, Rebecca isn’t the only character fixated on fairytale romance.  Favorite lyric: “That’s right, I make yoga class schedules / There’s no limit to where my reach is.”

“Don’t Be a Lawyer” –  I absolutely love the ’90s vibe of this, as well as what I consider (further) confirmation that my decision to work in libraries was the best of my life.  Also shout-out to “I Want to Be a Child Star,” which is great and could have the alternate title “Don’t Be a Child Star.” Favorite lyric: “There are so many other professions that don’t turn you into Jeff Sessions.”

Toxic masculinity

“Fit Hot Guys Have Problems Too” – one of my absolute favorite songs of the entire show, this takedown of toxic masculinity never fails to crack me up.  It’s obnoxious how a group of extremely privileged dudes is holding their own pity party, though at the same time, it’s really their own conception of masculinity holding back their free emotional expression.  Favorite lyric: “Don’t look at us, we’re not dancing for you / Leave us alone, we have to twerk out our sad.”

three men without shirts dance onstage in front of a crowd, singing the words "Twerk out our sad"

“I Go to the Zoo” – playing against type, fuckboy Nathaniel reveals the illegal high he gets to forget about his broken heart:  visiting the zoo after hours.  Favorite lyric: “I look at the monkeys / Their eyes look like my eyes.”

“The Buzzing from the Bathroom” – the idea that Tim’s masculinity is threatened based on his wife’s orgasms is ridiculous, yet it’s a real fear men have. The Les Mis parody makes Tim’s fears seem all the more melodramatic while reminding us there’s a very simple solution here:  just ask what your romantic partner likes.  Favorite lyric:  “Oh, the buzzing, cursed buzzing, that damn incessant hum / I used to think I was a hero / Can’t believe she didn’t come…to tell me that she needed so much more than I could give.”

Problematic narratives surrounding romantic love

“Love Kernels” – the Beyoncé tribute is brilliant, the costuming incredible, and the lyrics inspired.  God, it hurts how desperate Rebecca is and how real it feels.  Favorite lyric:  “I’ll be patient until the kernels rain down like candy on Shaquille O’Neal in the movie Kazaam.

“Fuckton of Cats” — again, the TV version is good, but the uncensored version is exquisite.  Favorite lyric: “This is the future smell of my house / It’s the smell of my dreams that have died (and cats).”

“The Math of Love Triangles” – while love triangles are the bread and butter of rom-coms, they’re not as glamorous as Rachel Bloom’s Marilyn Monroe impersonation. Favorite lyric: “We’re starting to suspect you don’t sincerely want to know about triangles.”

a woman in a blue dress smiles broadly as a group of men wearing glasses look on around her

“One Indescribable Instant” – Lea Salonga sings beautifully about fairytale romance in the vaguest of terms.  Favorite lyric: “What, are you kidding me? / No, it’s for real-able.”

“Oh My God I Think I Like You” – this is surprisingly sweet and sad for a song that focuses so much on intense, no-strings sex.  Favorite lyric: “Is there spermicidal lubricant that can kill the fluttering in my heart?”

“I Hate Everything But You” – I relate to Greg a lot sometimes, most clearly exemplified by this song.  Favorite lyric: “I hate when people ask me if I’d ever get a tattoo / Hate combination conditioner and shampoo.”

Sexuality and sexual health

Cats songs: “Hungry Vagina Metaphor,” “Itchy Vagina Metaphor,” “Funky Vagina Metaphor” – it’s impossible for me to choose a favorite among these, though Fred Armisen’s cameo as Itchy Cat holds a special place in my heart.  I’m impressed with the show’s commitment to exponentially increasing the number of songs written about yeast infections.  Favorite lyric: “Funky cat is all the rage when something’s off with your pH.”

a man dressed as an orange cat crouches on all fours on a couch

“I Gave You a UTI” – Santino Fontana’s performance here is so great, while the song breaks new ground with its subject matter.  At least, as far as I know, there had never been songs about having a UTI until this one.  Favorite lyric: “I’m so good at sex / Your maidenship got wrecked.”

The un-sexiness of sex

“The Sexy Getting Ready Song” – truly an instant classic.  Right off the bat, CEG is interested in examining unrealistic beauty standards for women.  This one focuses on the misconception that looking flawless comes naturally; actually, it’s quite a process that is really painful and often downright disgusting.  Favorite lyric:  “You know what?  I gotta go apologize to some bitches.  I’m forever changed after what I just seen.”

“The First Penis I Saw” – unlike other songs about first love, this one doesn’t hesitate to bring up the awkward, embarrassing side of a first sexual experience.  The ABBA parody is brilliantly done, and Donna Lynne Champlin’s face acting is just so excellent.  Favorite lyric:  literally this entire song.

three women holding vegetables as microphones stand in front of a large squash, singing the words "First penis"

“Let’s Have Intercourse” – taking a romantic Ed Sheeran-style approach to this ballad, Nathaniel manages to make this seduction entirely about himself and his own gratification.  Favorite lyric: “Sometimes my body wants things that my mind does not / My body wants things that make my mind go ‘Body, what?'”

“Strip Away My Conscience” – shattering all of our illusions about sexy stripteases, Rebecca’s number includes throwing a shoe at Nathaniel’s head and reminding him that her thong has just been up her butt.  Favorite lyric: “Baby, it’s such foreplay / When you slither like a moray / EEL.”

Self-acceptance

“Gettin’ Bi” – such a fun song that captures Darryl’s enthusiastic personality while making important and valid points about bisexuality.  Favorite lyric: “It doesn’t take an intellectual to get that I’m bisexual.”

a man in a white suit sings into a microphone as four members of a band play instruments behind him

“Anti-Depressants Are So Not a Big Deal” — I strongly feel this should be required listening for anyone taking anti-depressants or other meds to manage mental illness, as well as people who don’t understand why these medications are so important and necessary.  Favorite lyric:  “Some cry that in the past we didn’t medicate everyone / Cool, witch trials and the crusades / Sounded like so much fun.”

Bonus round

“Dream Ghost” — I absolutely love this song and don’t know what category to put it in. The Dream Girls motown tribute is so catchy in and of itself, while the meta commentary is sharp, and Michael Hyatt’s voice is so perfect for it.  Favorite lyric: “This guy is deciding whether or not to leave his wife / This girl is wondering if she should terminate a pregnancy.”

three women dressed in long, shiny dresses stand in front of a cloud backdrop

“There’s No Bathroom” — the Weird Al cameo this show deserves with the reprise I never would’ve expected.  This song is as bizarrely fun as the man himself (complete with accordion).  Favorite lyric: again, this entire number.

Thanks for sticking with me through this behemoth of a post.  Thanks for the memories, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend!

a woman with long hair lies next to a woman with short hair
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Yes or No, or: Honestly, Just Make a Decision

Pick a film about young love, they said.  It will be a refreshing romp with no cringey stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, they said (looking at you, Peppermint).  This is how we ended up with a film with significantly fewer racist vibes, but with way more indecision, teen angst, and heavy-handed gender norms.  Don’t get me wrong–there are some sweet moments in this week’s film, but I also would’ve welcomed just a touch of Jennifer Garner’s take-no-prisoners decisiveness for our leads here.

The Film:

Yes or No

The Premise:

A college student who is initially horrible to her tomboyish roommate is conflicted when she begins to develop romantic feelings for her.

The Ramble:

Pie is a college student who wears a lot of cute skirts, is close with her mom, and cares for a pet fish (named “Really” for some inexplicable reason).  Though she has a fun group of friends she rolls with, Pie can’t keep a roommate–she’s constantly annoyed by lights, sounds, and the lifestyles of her roomies.

When Pie meets her new roommate Kim, their relationship seems doomed to go from bad to worse.  Kim is a tomboy, and is very masculine in dress and appearance.  A true Millennial, Kim doesn’t like to label herself and has varied interests:  she cooks, plays ukulele, and grows plants in the dorm.

a woman sits at a desk writing while a woman in the background looks up at her from a book she's reading

Though Kim is a laid-back and considerate roommate, Pie is uncomfortable with her appearance and non-traditional gender norms in general.  Pie is super rude, making obnoxious comments about Kim looking like a boy and even drawing a dividing line in their shared room to keep their spaces separate.  But is Pie’s strong reaction to Kim’s style really about an extremely repressed attraction to her roomie?  Spoiler:  YES.

In return, Kim is basically the sweetest human being to live and too pure for this world.  Kim constantly brings Pie desserts from her aunt’s restaurant, shares the food she makes in the dorm, and even tidies up Pie’s side of the room.  When Kim sees Pie’s friend Jane crying in class after being dumped, she offers her a handkerchief.  This causes an aggravating love triangle that continues throughout the film, but is still a nice gesture.

a woman holding a pink pillow looks into a room while another girl watches her in irritation

Kim and Pie’s relationship finally reaches a turning point when Pie’s side of the dorm floods in a storm.  To make matters worse, the power goes out–and Kim is incredibly afraid of the dark.  While Kim bunks down on the floor and lets Pie sleep in her bed, Pie lights so many candles that it’s a fire hazard and distracts Kim from the dark.

two women dressed in white sit on the floor in front of a bedframe that holds many candles

Just as Pie and Kim are getting close, Pie’s boyfriend Van shows up out of the blue.  Or, rather, a boy Pie insists isn’t her boyfriend but effectively is.  Pie repeatedly dodges plans to go out with Van in favor of Kim, but before you feel too bad for him…he later manages to lose all sympathy when he says some nasty things to Kim about the natural order.

Meanwhile, Jane is increasingly attracted to Kim–a feeling which is very much unreciprocated.  It’s so awkward to watch, and there are times when I wanted to scream at Kim to just tell the poor girl she’s just not into her.  At all.

After an incredibly uncomfortable double date with Pie/Van and Kim/Jane, our two leading ladies get into a major fight.  You’d better believe there’s a really sweet make-up scene and FINALLY some action.

two women with wet hair hold each other's faces

Though Pie is ready to call Kim her girlfriend in secret, she’s not ready to make their relationship public.  When Pie’s mother comes to visit, she’s keen to hide her romantic feelings for Kim and doesn’t respond at all when her mother goes off about women who dress like men.  Hurt, Kim abruptly leaves, returning to her family’s farm.  Will Pie embrace her love for Kim or is it too late for this romance to blossom?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

OH MY GAWD, the angst.  The ANGST in this film.  It gets so tiresome watching Pie act like an asshole, be conflicted about her feelings, hurt Kim, and then make up with her.  I tried so hard to be sympathetic to Pie as she was experiencing feelings for the first time that her horrible mother told her were unnatural.  And I acknowledge that I am a shallow, food-motivated human, but Kim did nothing but give her cake–doesn’t that deserve at least a basic level of courtesy?

Also, poor Jane!  It hurts to see her throw herself at Kim all the damn time and, while obviously Kim doesn’t owe her affection, it would have saved a lot of pain if she’d just been upfront that she isn’t attracted to Jane.  There’s even a joke(?) about Jane’s suicide in this film, which is in extremely poor taste IMHO.

However, Kim as a character is everything (minus the whole Jane situation).  She’s so sweet and has not a malicious bone in her body even though people are pretty shitty to her throughout.  While she admits she’s attracted to Pie eventually, she doesn’t expect her to reciprocate.  She continues to do nice things for Pie because they’re friends and she’s, IDK, a nice human being.  Taking notes, bros of the world?

And I will admit the chemistry between our two leads is so good, and the sexual tension is intense.  This film seems to take a lot of cues from a K drama, drawing out the romance in those subtle touches and significant stares.  Effective this may be, but at a certain point I just wanted our leads to hook up already.

Would my blog wife bring this one slices of cake or move on with a firm no?  Read her review here to find out!

a teenage girl raises pom poms in the air while surrounded by her cheer squad in a parking lot
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Don’t Talk to Irene, or: Failure in Drag

As much as I miss Horror Month on the blog, I love months when anything goes.  This explains how we shift gears completely from last week’s dark exploration of human nature to this week’s film about befriending maggots, cheerleading, and Geena Davis.

The Film:

Don’t Talk to Irene

The Premise:

In spite of her mother’s disapproval and bullying from her peers, teenager Irene dreams of being a cheerleader and gains an unexpected squad in the form of a group of retirement home residents.

The Ramble:

The ‘burbs of Toronto:  so close to the city yet so far.  Irene is a relentlessly positive teen living in the ‘burbs, determined to join the cheerleading squad.  So what if she wears plus size clothing, adopts maggots as pets, and holds conversations with the poster of Geena Davis above her bed?

a young woman standing in her room smiles, wearing a handsewn cheerleading costume

According to Irene’s mother, there’s a lot wrong with this picture.  Mom (who I don’t think is ever named?), a cheerleader until becoming a teen mom in high school, worries that Irene will be bullied or scorned by her peers.  Too late to worry on that front as Irene is well aware she’s considered a loser but seems to give zero fucks.

On the first day of school, Irene creates a DIY cheerleader outfit to try out for the team.  This doesn’t go unnoticed by new student Tesh, a fabulous dresser and the self-described Switzerland of gender.  They are completely on board with Irene challenging the status quo.

a young woman and a genderfluid person with a floppy hat stand in a record store

One person decidedly not on board with this is Sarah, a classmate who decides to humiliate Irene for the hell of it.  Convincing Irene and a few other naive girls that they must lick the shower of the boys’ locker room to make the squad, Sarah films the gross prank and posts it on social media.  Obviously when this goes public, the school principal is not amused and suspends Irene, Sarah, and her boyfriend.  During their time away from school, they will complete mandatory community service at the local retirement home.

Determined to make the best of things, Irene befriends several of the residents:  the sweet but forgetful Millie, curmudgeonly Charles, and suggestive Ruth.  When Irene hears about a reality show contest, she schemes to put together a cheer routine with a squad of her own making:  the residents and staff of the retirement home.  Initially Irene’s pet project, the residents quickly buy into the plan and look forward to learning their new moves.  And of course Sarah is there at every turn to sabotage Irene.

a teenage girl instructs a group of four dancers

As Irene faces setbacks, Geena Davis and her new friends teach her to be resilient.  Charles shows Irene how to respond to bullies and to throw a perfect punch.  Tesh, in on the plan too, utters perhaps my favorite line in cinema: “Success is just failure in drag.”

Closer to being part of the contest than ever, Sarah pulls out all the stops to prevent Irene from accomplishing her goals.  With the retirement home manager, Irene’s mother, and a flat tire to contend with, the squad has a lot to overcome.  Does this mark the end of Irene’s dream to defy the odds and become a cheerleader?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Let’s just say there are no shocking twists to this story–it’s a genuine, feel-good film that is precisely what I needed.  Irene is such a sweet character who doesn’t even seem to notice when others try to put her down.  I would really like to borrow some of Irene’s optimism and absolute indifference to horrible douchebags.

Some criticism:  Irene’s mom is a bit disappointing, and her inevitable change of heart feels a bit too little too late.  Though she claims everything she does is to protect Irene, she constantly fat shames her daughter and discourages her for most of the film.  Sarah’s antics get irritating as well; she’s often frustratingly one-dimensional.  I do admit I wish Irene had taken things a step further with some of her choices, but the entire point of her character is about staying positive and not holding onto insecurities.

However, so many of the other characters are so sweet I’d put them in my coffee (if coffee weren’t vile). For once all of the ’80s and ’90s nostalgia here seems authentic instead of hipster ironic.  I love that Geena Davis was part of this film.  And Milli Vanilli helps teach us a valuable lesson about being true to yourself.  What’s not to like?

Did my blog wife cheer this one on or consider it success in drag?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hurricane Bianca 2, or: I Will Kut-ya

As one hurricane approaches the US, another storms Russia in the form of a small-town science teacher by day, ferocious drag queen by night.  That’s right–since we covered the first film and we’re all about being thorough on the blog collab, we’re tackling the Hurricane Bianca sequel this week.

The Film:

Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia with Hate

The Premise:

Richard Martinez, AKA Bianca Del Rio, travels to Russia with insults, false eyelashes, and the kind of glitter you still find under your fingernails months later.

The Ramble:

As a quick recap, the original film in the franchise(?) saw Debbie (Rachel Dratch), homophobic teacher determined to rid Texas of Bianca Del Rio, land in prison for an inappropriate relationship with a minor.  Now that she has been released, Debbie is consumed by her revenge fantasies and ready to carry them out.

A woman holding a bag with her possessions speaks to another woman in an office.

Starting out a cringeworthy plot that just gets cringier is Debbie’s, er, brilliant plan to lure Bianca to Russia, where she will surely be locked up for life.  With the newly appointed Minister of Homosexual Propaganda on the case, prospects for any openly LGBTQ+ person aren’t wonderful.

After Bianca receives an invitation to Russia to accept a science prize, she is skeptical but accepts anyway.  Tagging along is her friend Rex, who isn’t always the brightest.  Little do they know Debbie and her daughter Carly are watching their every move.

It’s not long before Bianca and Rex draw the attention of the Russian police, who interrogate the two about all of the women’s clothing and accessories in their possession.  After these items are confiscated, how can Bianca even exist to collect her prize?

When Bianca and Rex find a gay bar, they meet the witty and fierce owner of the bar, Katya.  Before Bianca can get to know Katya as well as she’d like, police raid the bar, arresting Rex and Carly, who has been spying.  Now it looks as though Bianca and Debbie will have to work together to bust their loved ones out of Russian prison.

A man talks to a blonde drag queen at a bar.

Meanwhile, Rex is in no hurry to be free from prison because of a surprise drag show and unexpected bonding with Carly.  Maybe Carly will even see the error of her ways and begin to change her opinion of the LGBTQ community?  (Also there’s a drag queen in prison called Vicki Leaks…perhaps the one joke in the film that actually lands.)

Bianca is nevertheless determined to bust Rex out of prison, and develops an elaborate plan involving her friend Stephen, help from Debbie, and of course impossibly voluminous wigs.  Can they pull off their plan, defeat the homophobes, and make the world a better place?

A drag queen wearing a sparkly turban laughs, a cloudy cityscape behind her.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I expected this to be a fun romp like the first film, but it was honestly…kind of a drag to get through.  Bah dum tsssssssssssss.

The jokes were predictable for a trashy comedy, and I was actually somewhat disappointed that, despite the message of LGBTQ rights and empowerment, it seemed to throw so many groups under the bus.  There were jokes about sex workers, STDs, fat shaming, and prison rape.  Call me a feminist killjoy, but I just don’t find that kind of comedy funny.

Another disappointment was the plot–which I acknowledge was really just a vehicle for the film’s message and vicious Bianca insults.  Even so, we kept hearing about the Minister of Homosexual Propaganda and got so little payoff on that storyline.  Dot Jones is completely wasted in this role and given almost nothing to do except stand around in a uniform looking disdainful.

Based on the title, I was also on some level hoping for a From Russia with Love parody but without the mud wrestling.  Keep your expectations low on this one or you might get your heart trampled on by glittery stilettos.

What did the drag queen of my heart think of this one–would she declare it the winner of an imaginary prize or banish it to Siberia?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Margarita with a Straw, or: La La La La Lai-la

I can’t believe we’re already starting to wrap up the Summer of Love, AKA Gay July.  This week’s film tells a story we usually don’t see on film about a young woman from India with cerebral palsy learning to love ladies, guys, and herself.

The Film:

Margarita with a Straw

The Premise:

A young Indian woman with cerebral palsy studies abroad in New York, where she develops her sense of self, interest in Apple products, and sexual identity.

The Ramble:

Laila is a young Indian woman living with her music-loving family:  dad who always sings off-key, brother constantly making snide remarks, and problem-solving mother who can seemingly do anything.  As a woman with cerebral palsy, Laila gets around in a wheelchair, hangs with her bestie Dhruv at school, and is never caught without a trusty (controversial?) plastic straw.  Laila is almost always smiling and happy, but she hides her feelings of insecurity and shame about her disability behind this facade.

An Indian family dances together in their dining room.

Though she doesn’t play an instrument, Laila loves music and writes lyrics for her band.  She’s somewhat confused when she finds herself attracted to two different members of the band, one of whom happens to be female.  It’s ultimately the lead singer, Nima, who Laila decides is the man of her dreams until she is rejected.  Not only that, but her band wins the top prize at a competition, which the announcer says to her face is because of her disability.

Too ashamed and discouraged to return to her school, Laila eagerly accepts her mother’s solution:  go to NYU and study creative writing on the scholarship she has recently earned.

A young woman rests her head on her mother's lap.

During her first class, Laila’s instructor assigns a student to help her type and take notes.  She initially declines help…until she realizes her assistant will be a rather attractive blonde Brit.

A young woman in a wheelchair talks to a fellow student, a blonde man who is standing.

Soon after, Laila is in for a shock when she happens across a protest against police violence.  As the protest intensifies, the police shut it down with tear gas, leaving behind Laila and another girl, Khanum.  A rebel with parents from Pakistan and Bangladesh, Khanum is blind and very interested in Laila.

As the girls explore the city together, Laila becomes attracted to Khanum, and they begin a relationship in secret.  While Khanum is out and secure in her identity, Laila feels less certain and has absolutely no desire to have that conversation with her family.  Laila’s mother has no clue the girls are more than friends when they decide to move in together.

Two young women sit side by side, one listening to music on headphones.

Though Laila loves Khanum, she is still attracted to Jared, her British assistant.  After impulsively sleeping with him, Laila keeps this a secret.  Probably for the best as both Laila and Khanum have been invited to spend the holidays with her family.

Inevitably, drama ensues.  Laila decides now is the time to be honest on all fronts, revealing her bisexuality to her mother and hook up with Jared to Khanum.  None of this goes well, but everything is put on hold when a much bigger family crisis emerges.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really love that this film was made–Laila is not a character we see too often on screen.  She feels like a very real character rather than the improbably saintly figure who triumphs over adversity that characters with disabilities often become.  Though she’s optimistic, Laila does feel insecure about how others perceive her disability.  Importantly, she makes mistakes that are frustrating at times but allow her to experience growth as a character.  Despite some of her questionable choices, it’s impossible not to root for Laila.

The character of Khanum is also excellent–what a badass.  She makes the whole Jared situation extra frustrating because he’s so fucking dull by comparison.  Her romance with Laila feels organic, though the main love story in this film is that of Laila with herself.  The relationship between Laila and her mother feels real too; it’s a beautiful relationship, but it’s not perfect.  Both women have emotional limitations that prevent them from connecting at times.

Biggest complaint here is the absence of a musical number about sexuality in the tradition of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Would my blog wife join the protest with this one or fly to New York just to get away from it?  Find out in her review here!