Unlike Jane, which posits that sexuality is fixed and innate, Girl asserts that for many women, sexuality is fluid; and unlike Love, which also tells of a heterosexually-identified woman in her mid-thirties who unexpectedly falls for another woman, true love does not win out over social pressure and homophobia in Girl.
On the surface, the plot actually sounds most similar to Kissing Jessica Stein: girl meets girl, girl falls for girl, girl leaves girl because she's not "gay enough." In both movies, the lesbian relationship serves as a catalyst for the main characters to open themselves up to the world, but in tone and style, these films are quite different; Kissing Jessica Stein is quirky and more light-hearted while A Girl Thing is more serious (and half as long). A
nd unlike Kissing Jessica Stein's protaganist Jessica, who feels more of an emotional connection with Helen than a sexual one, Lauren is clearly very sexually attracted to Casey.
Lauren's story is really more about her struggle to find her place in the world, to believe in herself, than it is about bisexuality. Through her relationship with Casey, we see her finally begin to let down her hair, figuratively and literally: in the beginning, Lauren's hair is always wound up tightly in a bun, but gradually, as her relationship with Casey progresses, she begins to let it down, and by the end of the story she is wearing it loose down around her shoulders.
Elle Macpherson does an excellent job portraying a woman uncomfortable with herself and her sexuality and paralyzed by her own insecurities. Lauren exhibits a mix of introspection, frustration, humor, and occasional bitterness, and Macpherson communicates Lauren's emotional and physical hesitancy well.
Kate Capshaw is also convincing as a bisexual woman who is comfortable in her skin. Although Casey is exceedingly understanding and patient, Capshaw avoids making her a saint by allowing the occasional sharp tone or note of frustration creep into Casey's voice during a few of Lauren's one-step-forward, two-steps back moments.
The writing in A Girl Thing is some of Rose's best so far, with one exception: the phrase "career bisexual" that Casey uses to describe herself at one point in the film is awkward and a little odd; it sounds like she makes a living out of being bisexual. But otherwise the dialogue in the movie is consistently captivating: funny in places, poignant in others, and frequently unexpected.
The movie doesn’t shy away from physical affection, either, showing several scenes of the two women kissing and a lengthy (and fairly realistic) sex scene.
In fact, the only real criticism most viewers have expressed is over the ending, since it's not a happy one. But it's not an unhappy one, either, and it does realistically portray Lauren's struggle between fear and desire.
By interweaving Dr. Noonan's observations about Lauren's fears and insecurities with Lauren's story, Rose shifts the focus of the film to Lauren's discomfort with herself rather than her discomfort with bisexuality. Lauren's rejection of a relationship with Casey is clearly attributed at least partially to the messages she has absorbed from growing up in a homophobic culture.
This drives home the director's overriding point: that Lauren is a product of her environment, and it is that homophobic environment that is the problem, not Lauren's bisexuality. A Girl Thing's gift is that it delivers this message effectively without too much preaching, and tells a very entertaining and thought-provoking story along the way.
The movie is now available on DVD.