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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Fear Street Part Two: 1978, or: Stayin’ Alive

As we make our way through the Fear Street trilogy, we’re only going back further in time and diving deeper into horror tropes and supernatural forces. Don’t worry, though–Part Two will deliver those vital horror elements: teens making questionable decisions, overly dramatic yet largely ignored warnings, and witches. Praise the Lord, so many witches.

The Film:

Fear Street Part Two: 1978

The Premise:

Following the events of Part One, teens in 1994 learn of a 1978 summer camp massacre that seems to have been the work of undead witch Sarah Fier.

The Ramble:

Following the events of Fear Street Part One, drugs are the official reason for the series of murders that decimated the population of Shadyside for approximately the 10,000th time in history. Keenly interested in the story is one C. Berman, previously revealed to be the survivor of a 1978 summer camp massacre. Desperate for a lead that will help possessed Sam, Deena and her brother Josh plead for C. Berman’s guidance…though, as her sad story reveals, there’s not much hope for those the witch Sarah Fier wants dead, including C. Berman’s own sister.

In 1978, Shadyside sisters Cindy and Ziggy couldn’t be more different. Cindy is an overachiever inclined to become extremely upset over stains on her shirts and the lack of enthusiasm for cleaning that burnouts Alice and Arnie express. Though once fun and free-spirited as one of Alice’s bffs, Cindy is pleased with her good girl reputation that can help her leave Shadyside behind forever.

Ziggy, a teen girl with long red hair, rolls her eyes as she walks away from her sister in a forested area.

On the other end of the spectrum is Ziggy, who is one strike away from being sent home from summer camp. After being caught stealing, mean girl Sheila takes it upon herself to make Ziggy pay, going so far as to string her up and burn her with a lighter. Camp counselors intervene, and future sheriff Nick Goode prevents Ziggy from getting sent home as his brother and future mayor Will would prefer. In all of this, there are no consequences for Sunnyvaler Sheila.

When Ziggy goes to see Nurse Lane for her burn, things get intense fast when Ziggy notices files about the witch in the nurse’s office. Nurse Lane discusses her daughter, who seemed to be a victim of the Shadyside curse when she murdered 7 people before killing herself. Cindy is dismissive of her sister’s concerns about the nurse…until Lane attempts to kill Cindy’s boyfriend Tommy soon after. With the ominous warning that Tommy will die that night, Nurse Lane is removed from the premises.

Teenager Ziggy talks to the camp nurse as she waits for her arm to be bandaged.

Now with an interest in following through on Ziggy’s concerns and finding a reasonable explanation for the disturbing happenings, Cindy tries to gather what information she can from her sister. However, it’s too little too late, and Cindy responds to Ziggy’s disdain with some harsh words that she’ll never end up regretting just a few hours later, of course. Ziggy has problems of her own as she contains to suffer harassment at the hands of Sheila and kindness from counselor Nick…who surprises her with some vengeful schemes up his sleeve.

As Cindy and Tommy investigate Nurse Lane’s dire warning further, they learn one of the tales around Sarah Fier’s life and undeath is her sacrifice of one hand in exchange for immortality. Theoretically, reuniting Sarah’s body with her skeletal hand may stop her at last…though no one has a clue where to find these remains. After prankster Alice runs off with Cindy’s purse, the team of Alice, Arnie, Cindy, and Tommy investigate a strange burial site that leads to an underground series of tunnels. It’s just around this time that Tommy begins to feel rather under the weather; (not so) coincidentally, he feels rather compelled to start swinging axes at skulls.

Cindy, a teen girl with dark hair, holds a flashlight to a book in a darkened room. Next to her, a teen boy and girl look over her shoulder.

After an encounter that unleashes a possessed Tommy on the unsuspecting campers, Cindy and Alice are stuck in the maze of tunnels in search of an escape route. Meanwhile, the campers are thoroughly engrossed in a Color War game of capture the flag–Shadyside vs. Sunnyvale, naturally. It’s really only the Shadyside kids who are in real danger, as the legend of Sarah Fier’s curse reveals that those from Sunnyvale aren’t targeted.

Teenager Ziggy looks into the eyes of teenager Nick as they sit side by side.

Much of the subsequent action unfolds as both Cindy/Alice and Ziggy/Nick try to track down the killer before more foreheads become closely acquainted with the business end of an axe. Even if Tommy is out of the picture (and, as he’s effectively a possessed corpse, that’s a big if), what of Sarah Fier herself and all of the ghouls under her power? And what does this all mean for our 1994 teens’ hope of freeing Sam from the witch’s grasp?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I had so much fun watching this installment, in part because of the clear interest in (respectfully) borrowing from other horror classics. Part Two continues to strike a good balance between disturbingly gory slasher and teen sleuthing adventure. Even though a lot of the characters are teen horror cliches, there is enough care taken with the backstory here that I’m invested in them anyway. Just as the relationship between Deena and Sam was the heart of Part One, the sister bond between Cindy and Ziggy is the driving force behind the story of Part Two.

I have to admit the “big twist” revealing who C. Berman was not that surprising to me…especially if you think of the personality alone of our leads. However, maybe this reveal is a genuine surprise to others?

As with the first installment, the aesthetic is gorgeous and the soundtrack is superb. Some of the ’70s hair is truly great, and there does seem to be more attention to creating a sense of time & place that was missing from Part One. However, I’m still not totally convinced about the setting as our characters are still rocking a mostly contemporary aesthetic and perspective IMHO.

Though our second installment does build upon the story established in Part One, I will say they don’t connect particularly effectively. There are times when this film almost feels like part of anthology series as we forget about the ’94 plotline completely except for the first and last 10 minutes or so. And, though we had several reminders about Nick Goode’s future as Sunnyvale sheriff, I totally forgot that his brother Will becomes the mayor. I could have used a few more character reminders for the non-sheriff characters, honestly.

Minor source of annoyance: despite what teen horror typically promises, we don’t actually get to see Sheila die a horrible death. As she’s a Sunnyvaler, this makes sense and is in line with the setup of the curse and all of the social commentary involved with it. But it’s still irritating as she was definitely the character I most wanted to see with an axe through her temple.

Overall, though, the trilogy has been a great deal of fun so far. My complaints with Part Two are relatively minor, and I can’t wait to dig in to Part Three, especially as we get the rare but excellent period drama horror setting.

Would my blog wife take an axe for this one or surprise it with a bucket full of cockroaches? Find out in her review!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Fear Street Part One: 1994, or: Mall-ed to Death

What’s better than making a decision about the next film on the Collab? Making the next 3 decisions all at once. Much as a I enjoy a carefully thought-out decision about our next viewing experience, I’m happy to say we’ve already checked off that box for several weeks. Our attention will be turned entirely to the Fear Street trilogy on Netflix…unless the dark forces within prove too much. Or our Wi-fi signal is interrupted. Truly a chilling thought.

The Film:

Fear Street Part One: 1994

The Premise:

In a town plagued by grisly murders for centuries, a group of teens must confront a witch who is out for blood.

The Ramble:

There must be something in the water in Shadyside, a small town where the murder rate is staggeringly high. Could the rumors about a long-dead witch causing all of the mayhem be true…or is Shadyside really just a bad place to live that brings out the worst in people?

In a dark, blue-lit room, a teen girl looks fearful as a figure wearing a skeleton mask and hood looms behind her.

After the latest murder of a teenage bookstore employee by a close friend, the residents of Shadyside and the idyllic neighboring town of Sunnyvale are in mourning but not complete shock. Residents of both towns seem to spend a large part of their time waiting around for the next murder.

In the midst of this tragedy, depressed teen Deena is experiencing her own personal loss after breaking up with her girlfriend Sam. As Deena is the one who did the breaking up when Sam moved to Sunnyvale, Sam is indignant that her ex has the nerve to be jealous. It does seem problematic that Sam is now dating a football player as a way to mask her LGBTQ identity and forget all about Deena.

A teenage girl angrily gives a box to another teenage girl wearing a cheerleader uniform.

When tensions arise during a community vigil for the recently murdered teen, things escalate between Shadyside and Sunnyvale high schools pretty quickly. Sam’s boyfriend proves to be a poor decision maker, tailing the bus that carries Deena and her friends. Deena really raises the stakes on that front when she and one of her bffs, Kate, throw a bucket of ice at the car, causing it to careen off-road into the woods. Sam is injured in the accident but ultimately okay…though her blood manages to draw the attention of a supernatural being.

Shortly after, Deena and her brother experience a creepy encounter that she initially believes to be Sam’s boyfriend playing a prank. Deena’s brother Josh, on the other hand, is something of an expert on the local lore of Sarah Fier, the witch executed in 1666 who is supposedly responsible for the statistically improbable number of grisly murders in Shadyside. It turns out that Josh may be onto something, especially when Peter is soon ruled out as a suspect quite definitively.

The local police are predictably useless on this one. Deena’s friends Kate and Simon also experience some disturbing events, quickly realizing that the witch is indeed causing mayhem…all because she’s after Sam’s blood. Luring the witch out, the gang sends her to a fiery doom Hocus Pocus-style and all is well in the world.

In a darkened basement, teenagers face an offscreen character, reacting in shock to an ill-advised plan.

Except of course it’s not. After learning of the 1978 case of C. Berman, who was pursued by the witch but managed to survive, the gang concludes they’ll have to employ some more strategic tactics. Along with some hooking up just in case this is really the end, they decide to outsmart the witch by killing Sam with an overdose…then bringing her back to life as soon as possible. A simple plan that could never go unexpectedly wrong, obviously.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is a lot of fun, and the soundtrack is so perfect, but there are a few issues that prevent this one from earning a full 4 stars. Like many a Netflix acquisition, there are a lot of moments that feel very intentionally formulaic. Frequently, there are times when the characters, writing, style transparently evoke Stranger Things, Riverdale, and IT…along with a number of horror classics. Sometimes it works, but at other times it gets overwhelming and confusing.

I like our characters well enough, and it’s refreshing to have an LGBTQ romance so central to the story. Kate is probably the most fun as an ambitious yet rage-fueled drug-dealing cheerleader. But there are a lot of times that everything feels overly glossy and put together, and our teen characters are perhaps too much of a nod to classic horror tropes. This could be a consequence of having seen one too many low-budget shark films: all other production values seem flawless in comparison.

I think my biggest annoyance is that our film does view very much like one that’s setting up other installments. However, Gillian Jacobs does appear briefly and promise entertainment in volume 2, so I can’t be entirely upset. And, in my criticism, I have somewhat underrepresented how much fun this one is as a teen adventure, gory horror, romance, and coming-of-age story. Look out for round 2 next week!

Would my blog wife sacrifice herself for this one or go full-on vengeance-seeking witch? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Knife + Heart, or: Crow Me a River

*Spoilers below*

CW: sexual assault

We have good intentions with our themes, we really do. But sometimes, even when you think the innocuous film that’s not too taxing on the brain is what you need, you just have to go with the lesbian director of gay porn struggling to find a masked killer murdering her actors in 1970s Paris. Duh.

The Film:

Knife + Heart

The Premise:

As a masked killer picks off the actors in her gay porn film, director Anne attempts to solve the murders, wrap filming, and impress ex-girlfriend Loïs with her brilliance.

The Ramble:

A director of gay porn in ’70s Paris, Anne is…quite troubled and troubling, frankly. At times a very high-functioning alcoholic, Anne’s reliance on the bottle has finally destroyed her long-term relationship with girlfriend and editor Loïs for good. Certainly not too proud to beg, Anne calls from a pay phone after a night of drinking, but Loïs insists they remain work colleagues only.

A blonde woman in a black leather trench coat stands in a phone booth at night, looking down dejectedly.

Meanwhile, at one of the top surreal gay nightclubs of Paris, one of Anne’s young stars catches the eye of a man in a dark mask that covers his face completely. Though things start on a kinky note, they take a turn for the ominous when the masked figure brings out a dildo that’s also a switchblade.

In a dark night club illuminated in blue, a young man looks off into the distance while dancing with a group of men.

Anne is rather unfazed, prowling a local quarry for another young gay star–or at least a man who has no qualms about performing gay sex on camera for the right price. So unmoved by actor Karl’s death is Anne that she even finds inspiration in his death for her next film, Anal Fury V…a reference to Karl being stabbed in the rear. The crew finds this all to be in rather poor taste.

After the murder of another of Anne’s regular actors (featuring a white-eyed grackle or possibly crow depending on the translation), the cast and crew is properly freaked the fuck out. However, Anne merely retitles the film Homocidal, determined to finish her greatest work yet and impress the hell out of Loïs. Unfortunately, it seems that Loïs has moved on with another woman, leaving Anne to drink alone at an incredibly surreal lesbian club.

Loïs, a white woman wearing a sheer dark dress, dances in a nightclub with a Black woman wearing a metallic dress.

When the filming is complete, Anne hosts a wrap party, aka an opportunity to wait around for Loïs to arrive. Soon after Loïs arrives, a white-eyed grackle lands on her shoulder, and a dramatic wind storm cuts the party short. As the party attendees flee, an actor left behind becomes another victim of the masked killer.

Following Loïs home, Anne confronts her ex, demanding that she continue to love her. Anne sexually assaults Loïs and, the next day, her former lover disappears and asks to be left alone.

When Anne learns of the latest death of one of her actors, she confronts the police about the absence of any leads whatsoever. Taking pity, a young police officer gives Anne a feather that has been found at each crime scene. As it turns out, the feathers come from…a white-eyed grackle, hailing from a forest in rural France, and supposedly victims of extinction hundreds of years ago.

To uncover the truth, cityslicker Anne packs her bags and heads to smalltown France. Will she discover the identity of the killer or just find a forest full of creepy birds?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

In the earlier segments of the film, I was confused and frustrated enough that I probably would have multi-tasked for the remainder of the film if it hadn’t been subtitled. There are a lot of artistic decisions here that come across as the work of auteur who thinks it’s your problem if you don’t understand their vision. Oh, you didn’t understand the oranges as a representation of the loss of childhood innocence and their evocation of early Russian silent films? That’s on you.

That being said, even if enjoyment doesn’t quite describe my feelings about this one, I admire the ambition. I don’t particularly like our lead, especially since she sexually assaults someone and claims it was love, but I’m ok with not liking Anne a whole lot. From a thematic perspective, the concept of becoming monstrous in the name of love draws a parallel between Anne’s actions, those of masked killer Guy, and even the actions of his father.

Appropriately, the cinematography is gorgeous and chaotic, playing with film noir blues and violent reds, as well as soft daylight glow.

I did find the look into some considerations of the porn industry at the time pretty fascinating. Interestingly, Anne takes pride in the artistic element of her work, and wants to create gay porn with a unique spin. Not to give the porn industry a free pass on a lot of its exploitative/problematic practices, but it’s nice that there’s no shame here for the cast and crew, and there’s even a sense of professional pride. That’s not the perspective we get about porn crews in a lot of other works.

In the end, I didn’t expect to find the unraveling of Guy’s story to be quite so moving. I wouldn’t call Guy a sympathetic figure, but the past does color his actions with tragedy and create a surprisingly emotional conclusion to our film. It has to be intentional that the setting is 1979, setting the stage for the AIDS crisis just a few years later.

Btw, if you’re just here for an extended and quite artistically shot orgy scene, skip to the last 5 minutes of the film.

Would my blog wife cast this one in a porn film immediately or leave it to a forest of white-eyed grackles? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Rafiki, or: Something Real

CW: violence against women

This week’s film was the first from Kenya to feature at the Cannes Film Fest in 2018. I certainly hope not the last, but I can’t say I’ve noticed film festivals significantly diversifying since then. Because, in addition to #OscarsSoWhite, #FilmDirectorsSoWhite, #ProducersSoWhite, and #MediaSoWhiteEurocentric. It’s honestly at times a challenge to find films directed by women, let alone women of color to highlight on the Blog Collab. Can we please fund many more films created by women of color? Come on–we are currently slated to get more Transformers movies, but we can’t see even one more picture made by a Kenyan woman premiere at a film festival?*

*Though note that this film’s director, Wanuri Kahiu, is supposedly involved with an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s novel Wild Seed, and I could not be more excited.

The Film:

Rafiki

The Premise:

Teen girls in Nairobi face rejection and disdain as they fall in love despite the rivalry between their families in a local election.

The Ramble:

Just as tomboy Kena prepares to finish high school, her family implodes, making them the subject of unfavorable gossip and uncomfortable scrutiny. Following her parents’ divorce, Kena’s mother devotes her time to religion, while her father, John, remarries and is expecting a son with his wife. To further complicate matters, John lets gossip make its way to Kena rather than telling her anything directly. His reputation isn’t as stellar as it could be, especially considering John has decided to run against the incumbent in a local election.

Kena, a young Black woman, sits alone at a table near an outdoor food kiosk.

Though Kena is usually content to chill with her small (and quite homophobic) group of guy friends, someone else has been catching her eye of late. The mysterious person in question is Ziki, the daughter of John’s political rival. Ziki seems different from Kena in every possible way: her colorful, feminine style, more affluent background, and comfort with being the center of attention. However, the two share an attraction and a rebellious dream of pursuing lives that are entirely their own.

Kena stands on a rooftop next to Ziki, a woman with hair wrapped in bright colors, looking out at the cityscape of Nairobi.

Even as Kena and Ziki spend time together, they are under the watchful eye of town gossip Mama Atim, who owns the food kiosk Kena favors. As it becomes clear that the two will need to meet in secret, they carve out spaces that are hidden from anyone who may recognize them. Kena shares her dreams of being a nurse, though she has the grades to become a doctor; Ziki reveals that it’s her goal to travel as much as possible. While they don’t know what the future holds, they agree to make something real of it.

Standing close to each other with glow-in-the-dark paint smeared on their faces, Kena and Ziki stare at each other with intensity.

Despite all of the sneaking around at all hours of the night, gossip still makes its way to Kena’s dad, John. What’s more is the local pastor uses his sermons to rail against same-sex marriage. Ziki attempts to hold Kena’s hand during the service, causing their first fight. Though the two make up, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hide their feelings. After an angry mob, led by none other than Mama Atim, finds Kena and Ziki together, the couple faces a brutal attack. John seems to be the only parent willing to stand by his daughter, while Ziki’s parents are determined to send her away to London.

Among so much resistance from their families and community, can the love between Kena and Ziki stay alive?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

*Spoilers below*

This is a simple story beautifully told. The colors are vividly expressive, reflecting the sweet but intense romance between our two leads. I appreciate that Kena and Ziki have endearing personalities and aspirations outside of their relationship; one of the most frustrating patterns for me in a romance-driven plot is a bland character who is merely a canvas to project desires onto.

Actually, the characters as a whole are written with the nuance to seem real and for us to understand, even if we don’t always sympathize. Mama Atim, the town gossip, is extremely overbearing and frustrating, though there are elements of her character I quite like. In the end, she’s homophobic to the point of refusing treatment from Kena, now a doctor. However, at the same time, she inscrutably reveals to Kena when Ziki is back in town–and I’m not entirely sure how to interpret this. Could there be a grain of compassion in this action or is Mama Atim merely unable to resist gloating over a juicy piece of gossip?

Speaking of Mama Atim, who reflects a pattern of many of the women in our film, I do wish Kena had a single female ally. It’s incredibly touching to see John stand with his daughter at the risk of his political career. And there’s a beautiful moment between Kena and the gay character her friends constantly harass. Most of the women in our story lack the power and authority to stand with LGBTQ members of the community, instead keeping their heads down and maintaining the status quo. Ultimately, acceptance (or lack of acceptance) hinges largely on the reactions of Kena and Ziki’s fathers.

While quite a few heartbreaking and harrowing events unfold, it’s a relief that one of the film’s messages is hope. Director Wanuri Kahiu’s story mirrors the reality of homophobia and religious bigotry in the present yet imagines the possibility of open-mindedness and acceptance for the characters we grow to love in a short time.

Would my blog wife vote for this one or openly tear down all of its campaign posters? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Prom, or: The Theater, the Theater

Sequins and elaborate dance numbers have a special place in the Collab; partly as musicals feel written exclusively to lift our spirits (and ours alone), but largely because we are here for any and everything over-the-top. This week’s pick has plenty of sparkle and choreography for days–does it offer the degree of delight we anticipate from a Broadway adaptation?

The Film:

The Prom

The Premise:

After learning of an Indiana teen whose prom is cancelled after she asks another girl to the dance, several Broadway performers team up to save the day and demonstrate their selflessness as activists.

The Ramble:

In small-town Indiana, the local PTA stirs up controversy by cancelling the year’s prom–a move widely regarded as all high schooler Emma’s fault. You see, Emma is the only out lesbian at her school. When she decided she’d like to invite another young woman to the dance as her date, PTA crusader Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) lost her damn mind. Rather than refuse Emma’s request and allow a same-sex couple at the prom, the PTA responds by cancelling the dance altogether (largely to avoid being sued in a clear-cut case of discrimination).

A teen, Emma, stands smiling in a hotel lobby. The principal, Tom Hawkins, stands next to her in solidarity.

Meanwhile, Broadway stars Dee Dee and Barry are having an even more difficult time (apparently). As it turns out, their egos may be a teensy bit inflated and it’s possible they demonstrate more than one trait of a narcissistic personality disorder…which becomes painfully clear when yet another production (Eleanor: The Eleanor Roosevelt Musical, which, for the record, I would see) is cancelled on opening night because of its unlikeable stars.

As Dee Dee and Barry catch up with perpetual chorus girl Angie and bartender between gigs (and former sitcom star) Trent, they decide their best shot to make a comeback is through celebrity activism. Learning of Emma’s cause, they tag along with Trent’s non-union tour of Godspell, conveniently traveling right through the heart of Indiana. Or whichever region of Indiana it’s meant to be.

Along a brightly lit Broadway street at night, four performers link arms and sing. Three of them are wearing sequined outfits, and one is wearing a red bartender's jacket.

Before we move on, I feel it’s important to recognize that these characters are played by Meryl Streep (brilliant, obv), Andrew Rannells (exuding Broadway energy), Nicole Kidman (looking very much the part of dancer but in a role whose purpose I don’t fully understand), and…James Corden. (Keegan-Michael Key is in this too, but we haven’t gotten to him yet.) There are a lot of problems with this film that have nothing to do with James Corden. I can’t blame him for everything. However, I do believe it’s impossible to fully enjoy this film at all if you (a) think James Corden was horribly miscast and playing an uncomfortable stereotype, (b) find James Corden smug and irritating regardless of his role, or (c) all of the above. We will revisit this later (believe we will revisit this), but I think you really need to envision these actors to better appreciate the experience of watching this film. And the extent to which it attempts to ride on their coattails.

Returning to our regularly scheduled recap: our 4 Broadway performers make a grand entrance at a PTA meeting in an attempt to teach the small-minded folks of a backwards Indiana town the error of their ways. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this doesn’t have the intended effect. However, on the front of small personal victories, Principal Tom Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key, no longer dressed as a dapper yet sinister nutcracker), lifelong Broadway fan, secretly thrills at meeting Dee Dee IRL.

The character of Trent, a man wearing a Juilliard t-shirt stands in a mall, holding out his hands in shock. Behind him, several back-up dancers look on with similarly horrified expressions.

While our team of 4 is determined to make Emma’s plight into a cause, Emma herself is less enthused about being in the spotlight. After the prom is back on, she is relieved that the fight is over. Meanwhile, Barry and the others are pleased to focus on important matters like Emma’s outfit for the dance. Though her date backs out, not yet ready to make their relationship public, Emma is nevertheless excited to celebrate with her newfound friends.

As Dee Dee learns more about Emma’s story, including being kicked out by her parents after coming out as a lesbian, she also learns about Tom’s reverence for the theater. Dee Dee is herself a small-town girl still recovering from a nasty divorce. Barry shares a difficult Midwestern past too, hailing from Ohio, where he was rejected by his parents after coming out as gay.

A teenager in a softly lit room sits on her bed, playing a guitar. Her head is haloed by a rainbow decoration on her wall.

Just when things seem to be wrapping up nicely (and early!), the PTA pulls a total dick move and holds two proms: one that is “inclusive” for Emma to attend, and a real one for everyone else. Apparently the entire town gaslights Emma and doesn’t tell her the location of the real prom, leaving her all alone at the dance. With more loose threads to tie than ever before, can Barry find peace, Dee Dee and Tom happiness, an entire small town acceptance, and Emma her own form of expression to speak her truth? Phew.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Ugh, I find James Corden so smug and irritating. And not in the period drama “I can’t stand him but secretly fantasize about him emerging from a pond in a white shirt” way. I just don’t like him, his sense of humor, or the attention-seeking vibes that ooze from him at all times (though I’ve gotten quite a lot of enjoyment from “Carpool Karaoke”). He’s gotten a lot of criticism for his role in The Prom, though I’ve got to question many of the parties involved who decided to cast him too. It’s disappointing to see a straight man play a total stereotype of a gay character in a movie about fairness for the LGBTQ community. I would have killed to see Titus Burgess in this role.

Beyond Corden, there are several other major problems I can’t overlook. First, there are really two different tones the film strives for, and they are essentially incompatible. The film wants to be a satirical take down of celebrity activists who are completely out of touch with reality. At the same time, it tries to teach (an incredibly heavy-handed) lesson about acceptance. These two conflicting goals constantly undercut each other by trying to poke fun at our characters while simultaneously humanizing them. I quite like the old “Hollywood winkingly underscores its own hypocrisy” theme, but it was insufferable here. Another person I would have liked to see involved with this project? Rachel Bloom. Some of Meryl Streep’s lines already felt right out of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

My other issue here is the number of characters, and it’s never really clear who is the star. I think(?) the star is supposed to be Emma, but she’s a less interesting character than any of the members of our Broadway troupe. But even among these characters, the focus is constantly shifting, attempting to give each a satisfying backstory that will bring them to life. The result is that most of them feel like sketches, and we don’t get to see any of the supposed growth they experience.

Finally, the film’s insistence on wrapping things up so tidily and sweetly grates on my nerves. I do support the film’s message, even if it’s approximately as subtle as gay fetus holiday classic A New York Christmas Wedding (RIP, Azrael Gabison). And I think it’s important to make films about LGBTQ characters that aren’t a total downer. But I can’t wholly enjoy an ending that sweeps everything under the rug so that all of the characters can have a fun musical number at the end. It’s all very cute, but it feels empty when seriously the only thing a bunch of homophobic teens needed to change their mind was a song about loving your neighbor. FFS, even Mrs. Greene is smiling at the end and throwing hugs around after she spent the entire film bullying, harassing, and discriminating against a teenager.

What I find most frustrating is seeing the potential of this film, but then watching as it ultimately falls flat.

However, I will give this film major points for my new favorite mantra, “picture a Xanax in your hand” (though it’s really a Broadway lyricist who deserves credit there). And the costumes and choreography are as stunning as you’d expect to see in a Broadway production. As an added bonus, perhaps this will be the first film that some people associate with Indiana, aka land of Mike Pence, from now on. It gives me perhaps a problematic level of enjoyment to think about how much that would pain him.

I could see how this could scratch the Broadway itch for people missing live theater at the moment; on the other hand, I could see how another type of theater fan would regret that they didn’t simply watch 42nd Street on Great Performances (again).

Would my blog wife attend the dance with this one or immediately shut it down? Read her review to find out!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

A New York Christmas Wedding, or: It’s a Wonderful Alternate Life

With a year as difficult as 2020, we’ve decided to start Christmas early on the Collab. Will we regret this in a couple of weeks? Most likely. However, at the moment it’s a relief to consume stories with endings both incredibly predictable and overly sappy. This week’s pick is no exception.

The Film:

A New York Christmas Wedding

The Premise:

After a chance encounter with a disguised angel, a woman gets the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones she has lost, reconsidering what her New York Christmas wedding will be.

The Ramble:

In Queens, NY, Jenny Ortiz faces a familiar teen predicament: she’s in love with her best friend, who is dating a dirtbag. To make things a bit more interesting, Jenny’s bff is Gabi, an Italian-American girl with a conservative family. Uncertain about her own feelings for her bestie and feeling a bit smothered, Gabi blows off an evening of Christmas decorating with Jenny (which would have provided a convenient time to share true feelings) in favor of an evening with her boyfriend.

Jenny doesn’t handle things well–understandable considering she’s still hurting following the death of her mother. After writing off Gabi (literally), Jenny must live with regret when her bff dies a few months later. The holiday season is never the same again when, years later, Jenny’s father dies close to Christmas.

A man and woman embrace in a walk-in closet.

Unaware of Jenny’s aversion to the holiday, her future mother-in-law has made arrangements for a Christmas Eve wedding. While Jenny claims it’s the sense of loss she feels around the holidays that makes her dread the wedding, it’s clear early on that other issues are at play.

Following an awkward dinner with her in-laws, Jenny goes out for a late-night run, coming to the aid of a cyclist struck by a car. When Jenny notices the stranger, Azrael Gabeson, is unscathed–crisp white clothing not even a smidge dirty–he gives the kind of vague mystical advice that will surely lead to a memorable turn of events.

A man and woman walk along a New York City sidewalk at night.

When Jenny wakes up the next morning, she is astonished to find herself in an apartment she shares with Gabi and their dog. After some confusion, Jenny meets Azrael again, who explains that she has more or less entered a parallel dimension. She has 48 hours to enjoy an alternate timeline in which both Jenny’s father and Gabi are still alive (though apparently Jenny’s mother is SOL).

In this timeline, it’s Jenny and Gabi whose wedding is around the corner. However, this couple has the additional obstacle of struggling to get approval from the venue, the church where Gabi is the choir director. A meeting with Father Kelly (played by Mr. Big from Sex and the City) yields no answers, as the priest’s personal feelings conflict with church decree, which still doesn’t officially recognize same-sex marriages.

A family of two women and a middle-aged man sit at a dining table, eating a Christmas dinner.

After a Christmas Eve feast, Jenny uses the time with Gabi to resolve their fight from decades ago. Surprisingly (but also not surprisingly at all), there may be a Christmas wedding after all. But with Jenny rapidly running out of time, what will happen to her happy alternate timeline life when the 48 hours are up?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Okay, this film has a lot of problems. First, the sort of reverse It’s a Wonderful Life plot doesn’t work because of its own setup. Whereas the 1946 film encourages its protagonist to accept his life as it is, disappointments and all, this 2020 film emphasizes how much better the alternate timeline is than reality. How relatable that message feels at the moment…but it still doesn’t feel like a satisfying moral.

Also, the LGBTQ messages are certainly welcome but lacking subtlety. There are a LOT of scenes and lines of dialogue that feel pulled from an after-school special. What’s more is that these scenes give the audience no credit to connect the dots–always a pet peeve of mine.

And (spoiler/not really a spoiler), there’s a twist in which Azrael is revealed to be Gabi’s stillborn fetus, which I find extremely cringey. Perhaps it’s a consequence of watching too much horror, but the revelation made me immediately concerned Azrael may be seeking vengeance or otherwise up to no good. Being haunted by a fetus strikes me as unsettling at the very least.

Overall, there are way too elements here for a light holiday rom-com, and the amount of death here is much too heavy for the breezy happily-ever-after we get.

That being said, I appreciated watching a film that centers an LGBTQ couple and the experiences of people of color, especially in a genre that’s often painfully white and heteronormative.

Would my blog wife marry this one on Christmas or erase it from existence altogether? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Watermelon Woman, or: the City of Sisterly Love

I’m incredibly happy to report we’ve gotten around to this week’s pick, which has been on my watchlist for a while and depicts the lives of black lesbians from a contemporary and historical perspective. All of this through the lens of a fake documentary, rows and rows of video store VHS tapes, and as many denim overalls as you can handle. There’s nothing else quite like this week’s film, The Watermelon Woman.

The Film:

The Watermelon Woman

The Premise:

While creating a documentary dedicated to the life of a black actress credited as “The Watermelon Woman,” Cheryl navigates her own identity as a black lesbian in 1990s Philadelphia.

The Ramble:

Aspiring filmmaker Cheryl has made movies her life–in addition to working in a video rental store with her bff Tamara, the two record videos for fancy weddings across the greater Philly area. But Cheryl’s true passion is watching films of the 1930s and ’40s starring black women, particularly the so-called Watermelon Woman. Though she has no information about the actress’ real name or any other biographical details, Cheryl is nevertheless determined to uncover the woman’s identity and highlight her life in the form of a documentary.

Two black women work behind the checkout desk at a video rental store.

Meanwhile, Cheryl has the interference of her friend Tamara to contend with; both are lesbians, but the expression of their sexuality is unique to each woman. Tamara is constantly checking out other black women and trying to set up Cheryl with a date. Cheryl doesn’t particularly appreciate the effort, and the one time she agrees to a double date with Tamara, it makes for an awkward evening with an overly dramatic woman who has an unfortunately inflated opinion of her own musical talent.

Ever focused on the Watermelon Woman, Cheryl tracks down a series of interview subjects to fill in the details. A friend of her mother’s unexpectedly provides insight, recognizing the woman not from the black-owned theaters she frequented back in the day, but from performances at gay clubs. Through man-on-the-street interviews and conversations with experts, Cheryl records forgotten stories of black history as well as the spirit of present day (okay, mid-90s) Philadelphia. She eventually ends up in the library and the archives of an organization known as the Center for Lesbian Information and Technology (aka CLIT). Sadly, the members of the library profession are less than helpful representatives of the field.

A black woman and white woman sit together, embracing.

Cheryl’s journey to resurface the details of the Watermelon Woman’s life, real name Fae Richards, leads to the discovery of an interracial relationship between the actress and white director Martha Page. Was it really possible for a director responsible for depiction of her lover as a stereotypical mammy to treat Fae with love and respect? Connecting historical events to the present, Cheryl finds herself in a relationship with a white woman, Diana. Even in ’90s Philadelphia, a romance between a black woman and white woman is fraught; Tamara decidedly disapproves, and the number of black boyfriends in Diana’s past is worrying.

In the middle of a video store, a black woman talks to a white woman who is holding several VHS tapes.

As Cheryl continues her investigation into Fae’s life, a book is published (most likely by a white dude) that confirms some of the details surrounding her relationship with Martha. However, Martha’s own sister, as well as film and cultural critics continue to deny the possibility of their romance. Finally getting into contact with a woman who was Fae’s partner later in life, it seems the puzzle pieces are falling into place at last. Will the pieces align as Cheryl expects–either in her documentary or in her own personal life?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Perhaps best known as one of the only features directed by a black lesbian, The Watermelon Woman also happens to be a fascinating look into the forgotten (or intentionally erased) history of black LGBTQ women. Though Fae is a fictional character, she stands in for the lives of real women whose lives aren’t considered noteworthy as they defy mainstream narratives. The use of archival images and photos, as well as home movies, lends Fae’s story a poignancy that, as viewers, makes us question how many other stories have been neglected, buried, or removed altogether?

Dunye is observant of contemporary culture too, celebrating the lively streets of Philadelphia without glossing over truths about race and the queer community that reveal the City of Brotherly Love to be less than welcoming. Even in this film about filmmaking, the character of Cheryl is harassed by the police. There’s a lot to unpack in this scene, but currently the pervasiveness and the longevity of the problem of police aggression and suspicion stands out most.

There’s also a nuance to the way black lesbian experiences are depicted here–both Cheryl and Tamara express and act on their sexuality in very different ways. In fact, this becomes a source of conflict for the two friends, who I like to imagine will work things out. Tamara gets my favorite line of the whole film when she describes Philly as “the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.”

On a side note, this made me feel a sense of loss for video stores. Not for any experiences I had as a customer (and all of their excessive fucking fines), but for the number of film nerds they spawned and supported. I wonder where Cheryl’s character would have worked if the film had been made today; I’m guessing in a place where it would have been more difficult to meet ladies impressed with her film knowledge.

Would my blog wife show this film some affection or give it about as much attention as an extremely heteronormative wedding video? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, or: Paint Me Like One of Your French Girls

If there’s any lesson I hope you learn from this blog, it’s that I am always on board for a period drama. Although our theme on the Blog Collab this month is mental health, we’re rolling along with a questionably related French lesbian period drama. Not going to lie–I just really wanted to watch this film regardless of theme since I missed it in theaters.

The Film:

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

The Premise:

After being commissioned to secretly paint a wedding portrait of a young woman, artist Marianne finds herself conflicted when she develops romantic feelings for her subject.

The Ramble:

*Spoilers follow*

Marianne is a drawing teacher in late 1700s France, remaining aloof as she pushes her students to do their best. It’s clear there are feelings bubbling beneath her cool exterior when she spots one of her paintings on display in the classroom. This particular painting, the titular Portrait of a Lady on Fire, was painted a long time ago yet maintains a powerful pull on Marianne. So let’s journey back a long time ago, shall we?

After arriving on a stunningly gorgeous island off the coast of France, art supplies in tow, it’s clear Marianne has her work cut out for her with a new portrait commission. Not only is the large estate rather empty and ominous in all of the best ways we’d expect from a Gothic-tinged period drama, but the subject of her portrait, Héloïse, will likely be less than cooperative.

On a windswept beach, a blonde woman looks seriously at a dark-haired woman.

After smoking a pipe in the nude (for real), Marianne gets her night cheese on, gathering all of the gossip she can from maid Sophie. As it turns out, Héloïse has only recently returned home after spending much of her life in a convent. After the unexpected death of her sister, Héloïse will inherit her life plan, marrying the Milanese gentleman intended for her sister. Sophie reveals that Héloïse’s sister did not die by accident–rather, her death was a suicide.

A naked woman sits on the floor in front of the fire in a dimly lit room, lighting a pipe.

Now that Héloïse will marry, her mother has commissioned a wedding portrait to mark the occasion. However, Héloïse destroyed the painting created by the previous artist and absolutely refuses to sit for another portrait. As a result, Marianne will have to be sneaky, posing as a walking companion for Héloïse, who has not been allowed to leave the house since her sister’s death. Any portrait work Marianne completes will be done in secret in only a week.

To make things even more complicated, Héloïse is incredibly gorgeous and full of life, so Marianne is almost immediately attracted to her. As a single woman who makes her living as an artist, Marianne enjoys a level of freedom Héloïse can only dream of, introducing her to music she’s never heard before and giving her an idea of what life in Milan might be like. As the two bond, Marianne feels increasingly guilty about her deception. When the portrait is complete, she decides Héloïse will hear the truth from her.

After the portrait is unveiled, Marianne destroys it before Héloïse’s mother can see it, claiming it isn’t good enough. And, while it was perhaps accurate, Marianne does feel it fails to capture the truth of Héloïse’s nature. Though extremely aggravated, Héloïse’s mother agrees that Marianne can repaint the portrait, especially when Héloïse declares that she will cooperate fully by sitting to pose. Héloïse’s mother will be away for five days, after which she expects to see results.

A blonde woman in an elegant green dress faces a dark-haired woman wearing a burnt orange dress.

Left to their own devices, Marianne, Héloïse, and Sophie create their own little utopia free from men and any sort of authority figures. They cook together, come up with a solution to Sophie’s troubles together, and discuss the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice together. And Marianne and Héloïse spend a lot of time casting intense looks at each other. We get a glimpse at the inspiration for the titular portrait of a lady on fire. However, in true Gothic fashion, Marianne is haunted by a ghostly vision of Héloïse in a wedding dress.

A woman stands in a clearing of a field at night, the bottom of her dress on fire.

What will happen when the portrait is complete and Héloïse’s mother returns home?

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

*Swoon.* This film is absolutely stunning from just about every angle. First of all, the cinematography is gorgeous, capturing the incredible scenery, costumes, and sets. It’s impossible not to feel instantly transported right into the story as it unfolds so delicately and deliberately.

It’s no secret that I love a period drama, and this one is so lovely. The lingering looks, the graceful (if extremely uncomfortable) fashions, the eerie visions late at night! All of this plus a lesbian romance, feminist themes, and commentary about class status, and I’m in love even though this film broke my heart.

I adore how real the characters feel, and what a unique character Marianne is. Though I haven’t given her much attention in my review, Sophie, the maid, is quite incredible too. Despite being part of a class meant to lead a nameless, faceless existence, Sophie is her own person. She is observant and compassionate, while her pregnancy highlights the vulnerability of her position. Just quit, men. Quit it.

As a great period drama should, this film simultaneously makes me want to live in the exact setting while also being so grateful for not living in an earlier time than our own (though it’s a reminder of how far we have to go for women’s and LGBTQ rights). The circumstances for women at the time are pretty bleak, and it’s heartbreaking that the love and freedom Marianne and Héloïse find doesn’t last. But the film manages to celebrate what these characters achieve without pity; it’s miraculous they carved out space for themselves at all, even if it was a tiny amount for a short time. That being said, I dare you to watch this and tell me the ending didn’t destroy you emotionally.

Would my blog wife exchange long, lingering looks with this one or let it all burn down? Find out in her review here!

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.

A teenage boy sitting in a classroom holds a rugby ball disdainfully.

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.

A teacher stands in front of a classroom, hands held open.

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.

A man and teenage boy in school uniform sit, facing straight ahead, on an empty train.

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!

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!