The "love that dare not speak its name" has changed quite a bit
since Oscar Wilde's time. Homosexuality, while far from being
accepted, is more visible than ever before on our screens.
The benchmark has shifted. Now the taboo seems to have moved
from which gender we sleep with, to the fact that we apparently
have to definitively choose which gender we sleep with.
Fluid sexual preferences, or "bisexuality" for want of better
terminology, is still the whipping ground of prejudice for gays,
lesbians and straight people.
Never mind the expression "you can't please some people". Bisexuals
don't seem to be able to please anyone. If there was ever a group
that needed some positive press, it is the bisexual community.
Then along comes a film like
To straight people this film really doesn't seem that big of
a deal, but to some lesbians it was a betrayal of the gay community.
I mean, how dare a filmmaker, and a MALE filmmaker at that, dare
to conjecture that a woman who says she's lesbian could "be
turned" into a straight woman?
There's a big, gaping hole in this argument though. Alyssa, the
gay woman in question (Joey Lauren Adams) is not turned straight.
Instead, she recognises that it isn't the gender she falls in
love with, it is the person, and that is a concept that a lot
of people both gay and straight still have not come to terms with.
The story centres on Holden (Ben Affleck), a regular missionary-postion-white-bread
kinda guy who draws comic books for a living (and fart-joke comic
books at that) with his best friend Banky (Jason Lee). When introduced
to Alyssa at a comic con Holden is immediately attracted, but
later finds out that Alyssa is gay. At first too weirded by the
concept he makes a scene and walks out, but eventually comes around
and the two become friends. Only the friendship is just a mask
for deeper feelings, and finally Holden can't deal with it any
longer. He confesses he is in love, and after much angst and crying
Alyssa admits that she is too.
Banky is threatened by Alyssa and does everything he can to dig
up dirt on Holden's new "rug munching" girlfriend, and
comes up with a few choice tidbits that give Holden pause. Insecure
about his own sexual inadequecies and thoroughly intimidated by
Alyssa's past, he freaks out. Thus begins a chain of events that
will lead him to a better understanding of himself and his own
prejudices and insecurities.
Of course, on the flip side Alyssa faces her own problems. Ostracised
by her gay friends for turning to the dark side (and lets not
pretend this wouldn't happen because sometimes it just would),
she's forced to re-evaluate her life, and in the process gives
one of the most moving and well-written speeches on bisexuality
I've ever seen. My bisexual girlfriend was moved to tears by it
while we were watching.
For me this is a film of moments. Holden and Alyssa finally kissing
in the rain, the already mentioned explanation of Alyssa's sexuality,
Guinevere Turner's cameo as a gum chewing, potty-mouthed singer
in the dyke band, the "permanent injuries" competition
between Alyssa and Banky at Meow Mix, the Hooper X "black
rage" fiasco, the compulsory Kevin Smith
references, and of course the appearance by Jay and
Silent Bob. It's all good.
I'll admit to a bias towards Kevin Smith and what has become
known as his "Jersey" trilogy. There's an awful lot
of in-jokes in
that you simply
won't get unless you've seen and enjoyed the previous films in
the trilogy and .
However, that is more of a secondary level of understanding. This
film plays perfectly well to audiences without that knowledge.
During the climactic confrontation between Holden and Alyssa
she gets frustrated and screams, "Unlike you, I was not given
a fucking road map at birth!" And really, how many of us
were, sexually speaking? Even those of us who know who we are
now, probably experienced a hell of a lot of confusion while getting
to this point. It's not the best acted film in the world, this
was an independent production after all and Ben Affleck wasn't
the superstar he is now. However, due to a script that is funny,
moving and daring,
is a rare
insight into the realities of sexual confusion.
Got a comment? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org