butch jamie


Written and Directed: Michelle Ehlen

Full disclosure, I was sent a review copy of this film by the lovely folk over at Peccadillo Pictures, who are kind enough to send me stuff from time to time, and they raved about it. From the outset, to me it looked like yet another badly shot, badly acted Indie lesbo film. But there's Indie films that work (like It's In The Water), and there's crap Indie films with bad production values and no script (like almost everything else), and I'm long past the days where I'll watch anything just because it has lesbians in it. OK, that's sort of a lie, but moving on.

So anyway , I was dubious. A film where a girl pretends to be a guy in order to take the lead role in an Indie film because that's the only way she can get a job? How film-within-a-film can you get? Sceptical doesn't even begin to cover it. But within ten minutes of sticking this in the player I was hooked. I was even giggling. I was thinking Michelle Ehlen is kind of adorable. I was thinking Howard the cat needed to come and live at my place, and I don't even like cats. In short, this is an all right movie.

Jamie, our titular heroine (Writer/Director Michelle Ehlen), is an out of work actress who tries too hard in auditions, turning up in dresses looking like a terrible drag queen because she thinks that's what it takes to get casting agents to notice her. She has a flatmate, Lola (Olivia Nix), who is the owner of a cat who gets more parts than Jamie does. In fact, Howard is a cat actor supremo with a killer show reel to prove it, whereas Jamie is unemployable.

One day, inspired by Howard success (and Lola's insistence), Jamie simply turns up to an audition as herself, and nails it. She's offered the part - as a man. Initially reluctant, Jamie takes the role and tries to pretend to the rest of the cast and crew that she is indeed man-Jamie. She catches the eye of her castmate Jill and begins a fllirtation, until everything starts to go downhill and Jamie is forced to truly confront what it means to be honest with herself and those around her.

As a plot it's simple enough, but as with all good Indie films, it's the charm of the lead and how they react to the quirky cast of supporting characters that really separates the good from the awful. Indie films live and die by their scripts, and this one is a cracker. The jokes do fluctuate between laugh-out-loud funny and cringe-behind-a-pillow funny, but there's enough of the former to keep things on track, with some lovely sight gags to boot, showing Ehlen's talent for physical comedy. Lola is a great foil for Jamie, unexpectedly witty and charming in all the right places. Howard is hilarious too, and the scenes with Jamie and Howard at the cat audition had me in stitches.

Inevitably when the film does get down to the business of sorting out the moral dilemma it does start to drag (pun not intended). Jamie shows herself to be a stand-up gal in the end, with a deeper moral depth than we've been led to believe up until midway through the film. It's what you'd expect, and the film frankly wouldn't work if Jamie had remained a selfish bitch throughout without hope of redemption

I don't think it's a great expose on the pitfalls and perils of Hollywood as I've read in other reviews. It's more an expose of what it's like to be an out of work actress, and you know, that's OK too. Indie films with modest storytelling goals are often the most successful, and the sweetness of the romance in this was pleasantly unexpected. It displays a subtlety in writing and directing working with zero budget that trumpets Michelle Ehlen as a real talent to watch, and I wouldn't be surpised if a few years from now lesbians will recognise her name among the Rose Troche's and Angela Robinson's of the business. I think she could be that good if given the chance.

As with all Indie films, you do need to go a bit out of your way to find this on DVD, but it is worth it the hunt. For a cute little film with a satisfyingly cheesy (but not unrealistic) ending to watch on a night in with your girl - or maybe as part of a lesbo film party with friends - this will do the trick nicely.

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


Butch Jamie 1
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Last updated 10 August 2010