Directed: Katherine Brooks
|Written: Katherine Brooks (with
Olivia Bohnhoff and Karen Klopfenstein)
Every year on the queer festival curcuit one film inevitably
creates more buzz than any other. For the 2006/07 season that
film was Loving Annabelle.
It's easy to see where the buzz has come from, and where the limited
production budget went. This film is gorgeous. Cinematographer
Cynthia Pusheck (whose bio is truly impressive) has shot a film
that I can only describe as lush. There's not a single sharp edge
in this dreamy, ethereal project. Unfortunately,
that's also part of the problem.
Loving Annabelle is OK, but not great. Despite its provocative
subject matter, there's something oddly sedate about the film.
I expected more passion, much more angst (considering the
life-altering decisions that these characters are making), and
more painful conundrums.
It goes like this. Annabelle (Erin Kelly), is the rebellious daughter of
a powerful female Senator. She's been kicked out of her second
high school and has been dumped by her mother in a small, exclusive
Catholic boarding school. She might look the part, with her constant smirk, hunched up
shoulders, streaked hair and relentless smoking, but Annabelle
is not your average rebellious student.
Annabelle meets Simone (Diane Gaidry), a beautiful
and troubled English teacher. Simone has had a tragic affair
in her past, with a girl she grew up with. She's lived a stunted existence, dating a man
she does not love and teaching at her old childhood school to stay close to the memories of the
woman she lost. She responds to Annabelle instinctively,
but her adult
maturity warns her that doing anything about her feelings would
be inexcusably wrong.
Annabelle is sexually aggressive,
and clued in to Simone's tragedy as no-one has ever been before. Regardless of how mature she seems though, Annabelle still reacts like an impetuous teenager, which is the only thing standing between Simone and disaster. However, Annabelle knows Simone can't resist her forever.
Erin Kelly's performance is the only thing holding this all together. The film relies
on Annabelle's believeability, and even though sometimes I think
her dialogue left much to be desired, she's got an
excellent physical presence onscreen. There's a raw sexuality
about her that I can see would be difficult to resist, and the
sex scene, once we get to it, is visceral and sexy.
If only they hadn't felt the need
to shave off all the rough edges, this could have been brilliant.
A few more risks should have been taken, with the script, the cinematography and
the direction. There needs to be less lingering and more movement. More should have been made of the
claustrophobic atmosphere of the boarding school setting, to really
make us feel how trapped Simone feels, how she's unable to breathe
until Annabelle comes along to throw open a few windows. This film is so full of "could have been" that it's downright frustrating.
1998, Brooks and Karen Klopfenstein released an underrated film
called Outtakes which was a sweet, funny look
at two women trying to make a film who against all odds end up
making both a film and a relationship work. I loved it because it was so real. Loving Annabelle
is another competent contribution to her growing body of work, but despite being prettier, isn't nearly as emotionally honest as that previous film.
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