Another film, My Normal, also veered into mildly campy territory, taking a truly novel story premise and running with it. The story of Jessica, a successful lesbian dominatrix that dreams of becoming a filmmaker, the film was actually reasonably poignant and handled with a light touch.
While the “Dommy” side of Jessica’s personality comes into play in the camped-up “love” scenes, she’s really a sweet, well-adjusted girl with a loving family and a hot girlfriend who’s not so keen on her chosen profession.
Arguably the year’s absolute best indie, Bloomington, served up an incredibly hot romance on a bed of quirky humor. The story of an ex-child star who seeks a “normal” life by going to college in Indiana, instead finds intrigue (and ridiculously hot sex) with a lusty psychology professor. It was sexy and magical from beginning to end.
The offbeat The Baby Formula took the most tired cliché of all, the pregnant lesbian, and turned it completely on its head, with a little help from a mild sci-fi premise and impressive acting from its two leads. Refreshingly different and genuine, it offered the opposite experience of watching, say, 2008’s Tick Tock Lullaby.
Slamdance/Sundance pick, The Four Faced Liar, featured a steamy queer romance in the middle of four 20-something New Yorkers’ quarter-life crisis. Fabulous acting, led by writer and star Marja Lewis Ryan, a tight script, and a refusal to bow to clichés, made this one of the most polished indie releases of the year.
Not as successful was Elena Undone, which, despite having veteran lesbian director Nicole Conn (Claire of the Moon), two fantastic leads (Necar Zadegan and Traci Dinwiddie), and the longest screen kiss in movie history, proved a bit too melodramatic for my liking. The lovely, unexpected romance between a preacher’s wife and a lesbian novelist was brought down by some bizarre soundtrack choices, heavy-handed writing and an annoying “love guru” character.
A Marine Story suffered a similar fate — the uneven script just couldn’t keep up with the well-meaning and timely narrative about a gung-ho female Marine discharged under the US military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
The hardest film to categorize this year was Cheryl Dunye‘s experimental thriller The Owls, which stands for “Older, Wiser Lesbians” and stars lesbian film icons Guinevere Turner, V.S. Brodie and Dunye herself as friends who accidentally kill a woman (Deak Evgenikos, The Itty Bitty Titty Committee) at a party.
While the film was intriguing, it’s more interesting to note the meta-narrative: The Owls was really a meditation on just how far we’ve come in lesbian cinema over the last two decades. Mixing the talent that made Go Fish and Watermelon Woman with “next generation” indie favorites like Evgenikos and Skyler Cooper, it essentially charted the evolution of lesbian film from its humble roots to today’s bigger and more complex scene.
As we close out the first decade of the ‘aughts, it’s clear that queer women have made progress on the silver screen. In 2000, most of the movies about lesbians were smaller films made by first-time directors on shoestring budgets, and the “coming out story” was the plotline of choice.
In 2010, a movie about your average, next-door lesbian neighbors got so much coverage in the mainstream press that straight co-workers and family members were happily chatting it up and hoping that Kids moms, Jules and Nic, could patch things up. A queer (or questioning) ballerina is leading the charge for Oscar inclusion. And a bisexual badass with great ink has turned so many heads that David Fincher and the Hollywood machine are bringing their own adaptation of her story to the silver screen.
Complement this sort of mainstream attention with a plethora of better-than-average and increasingly diverse suite of indie films and documentaries, and you have a banner year for women who love women in movies. Here’s to the next decade of progress, and to the talent that continues to push the envelope in Hollywood, at indie festivals, and in YouTube-enabled basement studios.