If my entire film going experience this year has just been a dream, you can have the real world and leave me right here (except for the nightmare that was Stonewall–then just Inception the hell out of me so I can, at least, hang with Ellen Page). Was 2015 the best year in lesbian film? That’s perhaps debatable, but it’s certainly been the most high profile. This was the year we finally got our eyes on projects that have been years in the making, like Freeheld, as well as a year of surprises that brought us fabulous flicks like Summertime (La Belle Saison). And I don’t think I’m getting ahead of myself when I say we’ll be watching the 88th Academy Awards especially closely.
So without further ado, I give you the movies that defined this year in lesbian/bi film.
Did you notice that this year you actually got to see some lesbian flicks outside of the LGBT film festival circuit? And that several of them got nominated for (and even won) a bunch of distinguished awards? How about the big names attached to these projects? 2015 showed that folks finally figured out that it pays to play gay.
Well, it’s official: good things really do come to those who wait. Like 63 years’ worth of waiting. In 2015, the transformation of Patricia Highsmith‘s 1952 novel The Price of Salt into Carol was complete, and in so many ways we felt complete. Cate Blanchett as Carol. Rooney Mara as Therese. Sarah Paulson as Abby. Oh, and have a bit of Carrie Brownstein too, because you deserve it! The 1950s, a married mother, and a younger lover hardly sound like the keys to an audience’s happiness, but Carol defies all logic. Nominations for all kinds of awards have already come in, but you just know the biggest are right around the corner.
In 2008, we only suspected that Ellen Page was one of us. More importantly, we thought it was super cool of her to get behind the feature film adaptation of Freeheld, which had won the Oscar that year for Best Documentary Short. Flash-forward to 2015 and Ellen was out and playing Stacie Andree, a mechanic and partner to Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), a New Jersey police detective diagnosed with terminal cancer. While the film received mixed reviews, there was something special about finally seeing this passion project come to life.
The Danish Girl is a beautiful film inspired by the true story of artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Lili is famous for having undergone one of the first sex-change operations with the support of her loving wife Gerda, a truth the film does justice to. Unfortunately, the film overlooks the very likely reality that Gerda was bisexual, as her lesbian erotic art and written accounts would suggest, and the idea that Gerda and Lili might have continued their romantic relationship after Lili began transitioning full-time. Still, at its core The Danish Girl is about the special relationship that existed between these two women; the Oscar buzz surrounding the film speaks to how well that was conveyed.
How funny was Lily Tomlin in Grandma? The answer: so damn funny. A lesbian feminist poet with a sharp tongue – you can’t go wrong! Lily plays Elle, the cool grandma any of us would turn to if we were pregnant teens. She’s not a sexless older lesbian either. Elle has a complicated relationship with the much younger Olivia (played by Judy Greer, who we’ll return to shortly). What really drives the film is Elle’s relationship with her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner). Sage needs money for an abortion and her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) is just too scary to ask. Enter Elle and hilarity.
It’s a TV movie, but Bessie deserves its spot on this list. Out director Dee Rees’ film about blues singer Bessie Smith was nominated for a ton of Emmys and won several, including the Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie. Great acting, amazing music and big names like Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique made for a splendid film. Any worries that Bessie Smith’s bisexuality would be underplayed are squashed after watching this film. And she’s not the only queer lady in this biopic either!
Jamie Babbit and Natasha Lyonne together again. After But I’m a Cheerleader, Jamie went on to direct a lot of TV and films like another favorite of ours, Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Natasha has since appeared in many a movie, but it’s her role as Nichols on Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black that has people talking about her these days. 2015’s Addicted to Fresno, however, saw Natasha return to a character type she knows well under Jamie, a goody two-shoes. Natasha plays Martha, a hotel maid and lesbian with a crush on a straight girl. Things get complicated when her sex addict sister Shannon (Judy Greer) returns to town and they maybe kill a guy. To boot, Aubrey Plaza plays an awesome lesbian in a blazer and the hilarious Fred Armisen and Molly Shannon also make appearances in this dark comedy written by Karey Dornetto.