itty bitty titty committee


Written by Tina Mabrey and Abigail Shafran
Directed by Jamie Babbit

OK, so some of the best minds working in lesbian film today got together in a room and the best title they could come up with was Itty Bitty Titty Committee? I have as good a sense of humour as the next dyke, but considering that they only tied the title into the film in the last 2.3 seconds (and that not very well) it leads me to believe that somebody in that room thought it was far funnier than it actually is.

For those of you who don’t know, Itty Bitty Titty Committee (which I’m now going to refer to as IBTC, mainly because I’m sick of writing the whole thing, but also because it’s terrible) is the first feature film produced by the organisation known as PowerUP. Mainly through savvy publicity, the group has stylised themselves as the first and last word in lesbian entertainment. Until now they’ve mainly given film grants to short filmmakers (which helped Angela Robinson produced the original D.E.B.S short film). Their membership list does in fact read like a who’s who of lesbians in showbiz (minus queen Ellen herself).

These gals all got together and decided that it was time to fund a feature film. They get Jamie Babbit (But I'm a Cheerleader) to direct, a smart move. They decide to focus on something important to the lesbian community, also a solid decision. They cast relative unknowns in the leads (besides Daniela Sea from The L Word) and reserve the powerful names for well-placed cameos (Guinevere Turner, Melanie Lynskey, Jenny Schimizu and Clea DuVall). The film has some excellent street cred.

So why did they pay so little attention to the script? The inexperience of the credited writers really shows. I wish Guin Turner had done less acting and more fine-tuning of the dialogue, because we know she can write, quite superbly when given a chance. The film is a fumbling, confused collection of scenes, lifted from somebody’s memories (or cliches) of their student activist days, exaggerated by a thousand for comic effect.

Anyone who was into radical politics in their younger and wilder days will recognise something in these characters. The naïve newbie who falls for the charismatic leader of the pack. The intelligent plotter who mourns the lack of publicity despite all their efforts. The struggling artist types. I even knew the reject ex-military types who couldn’t get over the desire to blow things up.

The film’s radical group is called CiA (Clits in Action), which would have made a far better name for the film. They mess around vandalising parks and shopfronts, including defacing the front of a breast augmentation clinic, which is where Sadie, the group’s leader, meets Anna for the first time. Anna is a confused, depressed lesbian who has just been dumped by her girlfriend and works as a receptionist at the clinic. Sadie comes along at just that time in her life when she is most susceptible (something which does wonders for the cliché of both lesbians and activists as recruiters of the young and vulnerable), and convinces her to come to a CiA meeting.

For the next hour, as Anna is educated and blossoms, we’re given a hand-held tour through the history of the women’s movement, from references to The Feminine Mystique, statistics on the repression of women, and a soundtrack of riot grrl music (provided almost exclusively by the Kill Rock Stars label). Anna’s education is meant to be ours as well, only for those of us who have already learned the lessons of feminism and activism, the trip down memory lane is slightly dull, occasionally witty, and often downright cringeworthy.

IBTC kicks into gear in the third act when Anna presents the CiA with a daring and radical plan. It is absurd, but is carried off with enthusiasm by the cast who seem to warm into their roles. The love story is sweet, but the ending is utterly ridiculous, even if it does provide a few laughs.

Visually this owes a lot to Down and Out with the Dolls, and the plot is cartoonish in the same way that But I’m a Cheerleader was, but without the originality. I suspect this is a film best enjoyed in groups where the laughter is infectious. Keep your expectations low and your spirits high, and the experience will be positive. However, I guess I just expected more from the kind of combined imaginative (and financial!) power these filmmakers had available to them. Without giving too much of the ending away, I also truly believe the lesbian community deserved more from PowerUP than a film which is essentially the world's longest dick joke.

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Last updated 9 July 2013.