Radical feminists, curry competitions, book clubs and lesbian make-out sessions beyond the grave — welcome to 2007, where the queer cinema was characterized by humor and romance over high drama, and the Sapphic sidekick replaced the evil lesbian as the stereotype of choice.
Comedies such as Puccini for Beginners and Itty Bitty Titty Committee ruled the American LGBT box office, while, in one of the year’s most positive trends, foreign films featuring queer Asian characters — such as Nina’s Heavenly Delights and Love My Life — received unprecedented attention. It certainly wasn’t all fun and games, however, as more than a few standby stereotypes still reared their ugly heads, mostly within the realm of the horror genre, and lesbian/bi characters were still few and far between in mainstream features.
This year may well be remembered as the year that queer indie cinema started to lighten up. The balance of drama to comedy leaned to the lighter side of the scale in 2007 with a slew of romantic comedies and feel-good coming-out stories.
This positive trend showed that directors are beginning to embrace new approaches to telling stories about lesbian/bi characters. It also signaled a renewed sense of fun and playfulness at the movies, giving queer audiences something to smile about in an era of uncertain politics and conflicting social messages.
Early in the year, Gray Matters started the lighthearted trend with its own quirky style, despite some serious critical panning. In the film, Gray (Heather Graham) and her brother fall for the same woman, prompting Gray to question her sexuality and eventually be outed at her swanky advertising firm.
Styled as a revival of the ’40s-era screwball comedy, the movie certainly had its moments, though it unfortunately descended into mediocrity with clichéd characters, oddly placed scenes and overall unevenness. By and large, however, the movie was a positive, upbeat and fun romantic comedy. If it wasn’t entirely successful, it at least had its heart in the right place.
Puccini for Beginners, written and directed by bisexual filmmaker Maria Maggenti (The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love), served up more screwball comedy in a breezy film about the perils and pleasures of bisexual dating. The movie follows Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser), a Manhattan author, as she juggles relationships with a man, Phillip (Justin Kirk), and a woman, Grace (Gretchen Mol), after being dumped by her girlfriend, Samantha.
In her review of the film, AfterEllen.com contributing writer Shauna Swartz noted that Puccini for Beginners owes a great deal to early Woody Allen films, and it managed to make its points about gender politics and fluidity in sexual identity without coming off as pretentious or heavy-handed. In fact, the film was almost too light, relying on punchy dialogue and clever quirkiness to cover up its lack of depth — as well as a curious dearth of chemistry between Reaser and Mol.