Sometimes courage is measured in just how much you have to lose.
Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer had already risked her life in
Vietnam, so one could ask, what was there left to be afraid of?
Well, sometimes living with the consequences of just being honest
about who you are is tougher than dying.
Margarethe Cammermeyer had a lot to lose; her decorated military
career, her sons, her father, her relationship, even her dignity.
Yet she stood her ground and the character that results in this
movie (played with as much aplomb as Glenn Close could muster,
which was a lot) is really appealing.
For those of you that don't know, Colonel Margarethe (Grete)
Cammermeyer was, at the time she came out, the highest ranking
officer ever to be discharged from the US military for being gay.
She fought the discharge in the military and civilian courts,
and was eventually reinstated. Colonel Cammermeyer's struggle
contributed enormously to gaining more rights for gays and lesbians
in the US military and she continues to speak on the subject around
the United States.
This story of one woman's courage to stand up and not be intimidated
by the might of the military machine deserved so much more than
an 85 minute telemovie. Her life makes for an extraordinary tale.
This film also had some real Hollywood might and talent behind
it, in front and behind the camera, most importantly Glenn Close,
Judy Davis and Barbra Streisand, enough clout one would think
to get a film like this to the big screen with a bigger budget.
However, I guess you could argue that projects like this get
seen by a lot more people on TV than they would if they were cinema
releases, simply because of the limited distribution potential
of lesbian film. It is also because of the popularity and achievement
of TV movies like this that other lesbian related TV projects
such as A Girl Thing and If These
Walls Could Talk 2 could get off the ground.
The teleplay was penned by Alison Cross who seems to specialise
in stories about women fighting male dominated bureaucracies (she
also wrote the TV movies Roe vs Wade and With
Hostile Intent, about abortion rights and sexual harassment
in the police force respectively).
Something I really loved about Serving in Silence
was that it explored relationships between women in their mid-to-late
forties. While film appears to be the medium that represents younger
lesbians, most of the portrayals of older lesbians seem to have
come from TV. Also, of all the films and TV movies I've seen this
is the only one I can think of that deals with a woman who discovers
her lesbianism later in life after having children and having
to cope with coming out to them. There are more of these women
out there than film and TV seems to think, and I was so happy
to see at least one story about this make it to the screen.
Can you feel the "But..." coming?
Here we've got an amazing story to tell, an accomplished screenwriter
and a talented cast, so what went wrong? I guess I have to be
petty here and say that while the reach of television may have
helped bring this story to more people, the sacrifices that had
to be made in the story to accomodate the medium frustrated the
hell out of me. The chemistry was there between Glenn Close and
Judy Davis, but it was so annoying that the script didn't allow
them to explore it. I'm not saying I wanted more sex (or any at
all for that matter), I'm just saying that the film seemed to
always picture them sitting on opposite sides of the room, or
with other people, or just kidding around like best friends. A
bit more spice in the romance would have made things much more
Also, the ending was way too abrupt. I was really happy with
all the earlier family sequences, they really fleshed out the
character and tugged at the heartstrings, but I was just getting
into the whole cheering and "Yay, sock it to 'em" excitement
of her court battles, and then boom, it's over. Roll credits.
I was left with this feeling of "hey, did some idiot edit
out the ending?" The voiceover at the end was a "telling
not showing" moment, and didn't come close to compensating
for the abruptness.
This highlights yet another restriction of TV. The time limitations
really restrict how much material you can explore, and this film
chose (rightly I might add) to concentrate more on her coming
out and anguish with her family rather than on the court battle
itself, the results of which I guess are probably the most common
knowledge element of her life story.
Unfortunately, when I saw the story I knew nothing about her.
I didn't even know who she was - it could have been fiction for
all I knew. To their credit, the film was actually made before
the end of the highest level court proceedings and appeals, so
it would have been limited what they could show, but I still can't
shake this feeling that it was missing something important.
So, a little more feeling between the women, and a bit more detail
to the end and I would have been a very satisfied customer. As
it is, I keep remembering this film as the one that will probably
have broader mainstream appeal than most other lesbian films,
precisely because the things I wanted more of were missing.
Got a comment? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org