It’s followed by No Bikini, about a young girl who takes off her bikini top and passes as a boy at a summer swim camp. The tale is told in voiceover as shots of young kids splash about in a community pool, under the supervision of a hilariously overbearing coach.
It’s the third film in a row about young girls and rather quirky childhood experiences. From Andy’s straight-up tomboy to Bikini’s heroine’s defiant act of tossing her top, the first section of the collection feels comprehensive and solid. There are no romances or even any strictly lesbian content — but each movie speaks to the experience of growing up outside the expected “norms” of femininity.
The kid gloves come off for Gay Bash, a music video featuring Melange Lavonne, who raps about homophobia, bigotry, and yes, gay-bashing. The song is great, and the sentiment is there, but the video comes off as a rather mundane production. One wishes the video was presented with more gloss — or more grittiness — as it uncomfortably straddles the line.
Next in the sequence is Don’t Mess With Texas, a whacked-out comedy about two very outspoken lesbians taking on the occupants of a roadhouse café deep in Bush Country. There’s a very funny twist that keeps it from sinking into self-parodying territory, but your appreciation for this will depend entirely on your tolerance (or love) of camp. Viewers who like a little absurdity or Better Than Chocolate-style humor will probably love this one.
Mars is a straight-up drama about a young photographer who falls for a teenage gang leader in modern Germany. It’s reminiscent of the 1990s film F–king Amal (Show Me Love) in its unapologetic portrayal of teenage angst and lesbian opposites attracting, and just as gritty in its camerawork and acting. It’s also the heaviest (and potentially, most satisfying) dramatic short of the bunch.
Next in the lineup is I Heart Veronica Martin, which could have easily been titled “But I’m (in Love With) A Cheerleader!” Darby is a lonely teen with a penchant for writing in her diary and crushing on All-American babe (and head cheerleader) Veronica Martin.
When Veronica starts hanging out with Darby, an all-too-familiar “not quite platonic” friendship develops, sending our heroine over the edge. It’s funny and memorable material – many queer women will smile and cringe simultaneously at the familiarity of the subject matter.
She Likes Girls 4 closes on its strongest and sexiest piece — Pages of a Girl, the story of two women who meet working in a bookstore in 1950s Brazil. It has all the right moves — the girl meets girl storyline, the push and pull of a great period piece with queer characters, and a very sultry, simmering chemistry between the two leads.
It’s a strong collection, with only a mild misstep or two. The balance between heavier dramatic content and the truly campy comedies is satisfying — clearly, an appreciable amount of energy went into the planning here. While the “tomboys and tough girls” theme doesn’t exactly carry through the second half of the DVD, it’s hardly a problem given the variety and talent on display here.
The short format is truly becoming a bastion of creativity and innovation in queer cinema — the lower budgets and greater acceptance of “indie” sensibilities make it a real haven for cash-strapped yet gifted filmmakers looking to get their voices heard. The She Likes Girls series continues to offer up the cream of the crop — and this most recent installment represents the best collection yet.
She Likes Girls 4 is available now on DVD.