I don't know why, but even in 1996 when this film first came
out, it looked outdated. The clothes, the hairstyles, the music...
the entire film was like a bad eighties flashback. In fact, I
remember thinking "wow, this must be an old movie" when
I saw it screened, and was surprised that it was a new film. The
reason I'm mentioning this is that if the film looked old in 1996,
ten years have not helped it along any. Everything Relative
has aged badly. (Shoulder pads, flicked hair, flourescents. Wah!)
Famously, this film is often referred to as "The Lesbian
Big Chill", simply because it features a bunch of college
friends who reunite at a country house for the weekend. It actually
has more in common with the film that also inspired The
Big Chill, which is a John Sayles film called Return
of the Secaucus 7, but I guess "Return of the Lesbian
7" sounds too much like a bad SciFi film. The purpose of
this particular reunion is a little more upbeat than for The
Big Chill though. The woman have gathered to celebrate
a Jewish Bris for the son of lesbian couple Katie (Stacey Nelkin)
and Victoria (Monica Bell). Harvey Fierstein plays the Rabbi.
That tells you pretty much all you need to know about the Bris
Sarah (Carol Schneider), the only straight girl at the party,
is depressed about being there because she desperately wants a
child of her own, but she and her husband have been unable to
conceive. Action girl Luce (Andrea Weber), a stuntwoman who also
has a drinking problem, shows up with a much younger woman who
feels totally left out of this trip down nostalgia lane and promptly
leaves. (Plus, she was a Republican. This movie wears it's politics
pretty much on its sleeve!) This leaves the way open for Gina
(Gabriella Messina) to swoop in and claim the girl, since she
has always had a thing for Luce. All she needs to do is get past
the guilt Luce feels for her girlfriend's death twenty years before.
Josie and Maria were a hot and happening couple back in the day,
but Maria could not bear to disappoint and humiliate her family
by admitting she was gay. They broke up years before and Maria
tried to go straight. Now she has two kids she's not allowed to
see and an ex-husband who won custody of the kids in a bitter
court battle. When the two women meet again there's immediate
sexual tension. Meanwhile the couple with the child try to convince
us that they're perfectly capable of being parents, when one of
them is having difficulties even being open about her sexuality.
The funny thing about Everything Relative is
the way you can check off the lesbian clichés as they fly
by, but somehow it seems appropriate that they be there. Talking
about lesbian politics? Check. Singing folk songs by an open fire?
Check. Sexual tension from the past? Check. Softball game? Check.
Stories about coming out? Check. Lesbian sex? Check, check and
All the goodies are here, and yes, there's a reason some things
become clichés. I can imagine sitting with my friends twenty
years from now having similar conversations, and yeah we do bring
out the guitar and sing Indigo Girls songs from time to time.
Hopefully we'll avoid having sex with each other though. Still,
there's something about this movie sometimes that is just so familiar
it just feels downright comfy, like an old pair of track pants.
Unfortunately, being comfy doesn't make it good. In fact, the
acting is pretty appalling all round, and the direction is static.
That's not to say you can't enjoy the film for what it is, I know
lots of women who adore this movie which is why I'm a bit loathe
to come down too hard on it. In terms of what makes a film genuinely
interesting though, this film just doesn't have it.
There's too many storylines and the film has trouble keeping
all the different facets of the movie alive and interesting, and
in the end all the traumatic setups are resolved way too easily.
The lesbian politics are jammed so far down our throats that it's
hard not to choke on it. Some of the scenes are emotional and
sweet, and some of the sex is hot, but too often the sweet veers
over the edge into cloying and sentimental, and the sex feels
a bit like it is playing to the cheap seats.
Character-wise, the most interesting story for me was the reunited
couple Josie and Maria. This was the story that held the most
emotional punch, and their moonlight trysts were actually all
the better for the details we couldn't see. Erotic and sensual
wins out over turbo-charged sexuality any day of the week.
Don't expect too much and you might get a kick out of the unabashed
lesbianism of this movie. That's the only way I can think of to
describe it. It deals with issues many lesbians care about, and
if you agree with all the points the characters make you'll probably
be raising a fist crying "right on, sister!" It's diverting,
but a bit of a mixed bag of the good and the annoying. Years ago
I might have rated this film higher, but this dated production
is just too cringeworthy now, with nothing truly original about
it to make it relevant.
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