the book club

2006

Written by Amanda Tremblay and Megan Schlegel
Directed by Amanda Tremblay

Last year Writer/Director/Producer Angela Robinson wrote what could almost be called the lesbian filmmaker's manifesto on AfterEllen.com, calling for all lesbian filmmakers with ideas to grab their cameras and start shooting. With digital video cameras so easily accessible and the Internet available as a means of distribution, there has never been a better time for guerilla filmmaking. Though this project obviously predates Angela's article, for all intents and purposes this film could almost be the perfect response to that calling.

In 2006 a bunch of artistic friends from Nevada got together and made a no-budget movie. The screenplay was written a few years before by partners Amanda Tremblay and Megan Schlegel. Because they, and all the rest of the cast and crew, all had day jobs they could only film on the weekends. So began a true labour of love, and it really does show. These are obviously a bunch of really creative, talented people.

Obviously, due to budget restraints, this was never going to win prizes for best cinematography, but I think their cinematographer did a pretty good job with what he had. The script is winsome enough to keep things interesting, and the film doesn't try and complicate things by putting too much in or by being too long. A couple of good-looking leads and a neat little story hook, and hey presto, you have a dinky little movie. The filmmakers entered the film in the 2006 Slamdance film festival.

Of course, when it came time to distribute the film they built a website to advertise it, streamed the film for free on media site grapeflix.com, and offered the CD at filmbaby.com. (Roll over these URLs for links) I don't usually offer so much purchase information on films, but I just seriously got such a good chuckle out of this film that I had to give it a plug. Of course, I also love discovering new films that hardly anyone has heard about.

Right. As for the film, this is a very simple love story. Kate falls for Hannah, a straight girl who runs a local bakery that specialises in dog treats. Of course, she has the classic gay-girl-loves-straight-girl fantasies of her dream woman dumping her boyfriend and running away with her. Unfortunately it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Instead, Hannah invites Kate to her book club, a monthly meeting of successful (straight) women. After being pressed to nominate a book for the next meeting, Kate offers up an unusual title - a book of lesbian erotica about a dashing gay pirate named Raven.

The women in the book club read the book, and find themselves so turned on that their sex lives instantly improve. I have to say, the similarities between this and the popularity of lesbian fanfic on the web is kinda hilarious. Kate on the other hand is still suffering her straight-girl crush, and complains about it to her gay boy friends. They in turn set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates. Finally, fed up with the situation, Kate accepts a job in San Francisco, hoping that running away from it all will solve her entire problem.

The news that Kate is leaving and the feelings she gets from reading the book finally spur Hannah into action, but is she brave enough to leave her straight life and perfect boyfriend behind? One thing I will mention though... sex and bubble wrap don't mix! For the explanation behind that, and to see if Kate and Hannah have a happy ending, you'll have to watch the film.

Littered throughout the film are black and white excerpts from the lesbian erotic novel that all the women are reading, and these are the parts that are truly amusing. Raven, the lesbian pirate, has a seductive catchphrase (I don't want to ruin in for you) that is repeated, and every time it was said I found myself laughing out loud. The fact that you come to expect it just makes it funnier. Eventually, the straight women reading the book begin to imagine themselves as characters being seduced by the gay pirate, and they all lose their virtues to her all-too-persuasive charms.

Cicely Mendoza, the actress playing Kate, is very easy to like, and very easy on the eyes. She has a natural beauty that isn't showy, and I definitely bought her as a lesbian. The remainder of the book club was well cast, though the side plot involving the overly-christian woman and her lover dragged the film a little bit.

Considering we're never going to get films made and distributed by the big studios in the quantities we want or with the content we love, there needs to be more support for little enterprises like this. I'm actually really surprised (and maybe a little disappointed) that this film hasn't been picked up by the major lesbian film festivals. It is every bit as good, if not better, than most of the stuff you see at those festivals every year. My rating is probably a little inflated, but I can't resist a good romance. I'm sticking with it because these filmmakers deserve support, and because I genuinely enjoyed myself watching this movie. That is, after all, the whole point.

Got a comment? Write to me at nancyamazon@gmail.com