Julianne Moore. Natalie Portman. Annette Bening. A few years ago, no one would have dreamed that such big, bankable names would be involved in pushing lesbian-inclusive cinema to the major studio mainstream, perhaps even to the promised land of the Oscars. But here we are at the end of 2010, and the future has never looked brighter.
With one truly breakout film, The Kids Are All Right, and high-profile projects including The Runaways, Black Swan, and the Millennium Trilogy, it seems that that queer female lead characters have finally made it into the cinematic forefront. Perhaps it’s only a toehold, but it’s a welcome trend, considering big-screen lesbians have most typically been portrayed as serial killers (Monster, Basic Instinct) or minor characters.
The lesbian movies are all right
For years, the lesbian movie-watching community has been waiting for “Dykeback Mountain” — that is, our own mainstream breakout in the vein of 2005’s cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain. This year, that film finally came in the form of The Kids Are All Right, a Sundance darling that made major waves when it was released to wide acclaim across the country.
Here was the first mainstream movie to focus on a lesbian relationship, starring A-List talent in the form of Julianne Moore and Annette Bening, who play a happy couple with two teens, and Mark Ruffalo in a key supporting role.
AE reviewer Dorothy Snarker adored the film, though it certainly caused outrage within the community for the inclusion of a “sleeping with a man” plot point. Snarker countered with a reasoned analysis and a genuine appreciation for the film’s handling of the subject matter:
Much has been made about how The Kids Are All Right could be the lesbian Brokeback Mountain. The beauty of Ang Lee’s heartbreaking masterpiece was that it made Midwestern housewives leave the theater saying, “Gosh, I sure wish those gay cowboys could have worked things out.”
The genius of The Kids Are All Right is that it makes everyone leave the theater saying, “I sure hope that nice couple can work it out.”
Julianne Moore also played gay (or bi) in Chloe – a film that reviewer Lesley Goldberg called “a thriller that gets stuck on its way to the payoff somewhere in Lesbian Stunt Casting Ville” — and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, in which she played the naughty partner of the protagonist’s aunt.
Ms. Moore may have played queer women even more than she played it straight in recent movies. Not that we’re counting.