(*homocinematically inclined)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reverend's Reviews: Fall Into New Releases

Summer is over and young people are back to school. A flurry of new GLBT-interest movies on home video this month, though, offers tantalizing viewing options for the fall. First out of the gate on September 1st is Finding Mr. Wright, from Nandar Entertainment. It stars the always amusing Rebekah Kochan (best known for the Eating Out series) as well as one of our favorite out actors, Matthew Montgomery, in a contemporary screwball comedy involving Hollywood politics and gay romance. Montgomery reveals an endearing, previously unseen funny side, and comedian Jason Stuart is thrown in for good measure.

On September 13th, the 2010 festival hit Leading Ladies will make its DVD debut courtesy of Wolfe Video. While it primarily puts a lesbian spin on the 1992 Australian film Strictly Ballroom, the plot also features an overtly gay character played by cute Benji Schwimmer, season 2 winner of TV's So You Think You Can Dance. Schwimmer isn't the only connection between that series and this movie; the show's choreographer, Melanie LaPatin, staged the dances in Leading Ladies and stars as the overbearing mother of two sisters groomed for ballroom competition stardom. When one of her daughters becomes pregnant and the other falls in love with another female dancer, Mom is less than pleased.

Leading Ladies suffers initially from some forced performances and dialogue but both improve as the film moves along. There are some great dance numbers, notably one between Schwimmer and a hunky suitor and another set amongst the aisles of a grocery store, and fine photography by Peter Biagi throughout. The moral of the story -- "Let love lead" -- becomes clear early on and serves as important guidance through the difficult choices the main characters have to make.

A more unusual, less polished but very effective glimpse into love and its challenges is provided by Open. The first American film ever to win the Berlin Film Festival's prestigious "Teddy" Jury Prize, it is set for a September 20th release on DVD and streaming video by Ariztical Entertainment. A striking feature film debut (despite some amateurish performances) by writer-director Jake Yuzna, Open focuses on the travails of two atypical couples. One pair is comprised of hermaphroditic individuals given to frequent cosmetic surgery in their effort to be as similar in appearance as possible. As one observer notes of them, "They truly feel they are one entity, and they want their bodies to reflect that." When one has to travel, an androgynous acquaintance threatens to come between them.

The other couple features a young man who falls in love with a female-to-male transgender person. As they work to define their relationship and sexual interactions, the trans partner's troubled past provides challenges. When the trans character unexpectedly becomes pregnant, a whole new set of questions emerges. Open is a unique and engrossing exploration of the ever-increasing diversity in human relationships.

Finally, IFC Midnight is unveiling the provocative Autoerotic in September via Video on Demand (VOD). While there isn't much GLBT content in this anthology of four stories that expose some of the more secretive aspects of sexuality, the best segment is about a very pregnant married woman who accepts another woman's offer to help her achieve orgasm, something her loving husband hasn't been able to provide in the latter months of her pregnancy. It is simultaneously funny and erotic, mainly because it is told with considerable honesty. Both lesbian and straight women should thoroughly enjoy it.

Reverend's Ratings:
Finding Mr. Wright: B-
Leading Ladies: B
Open: B+
Autoerotic: C+

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

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