The 1995 film The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love is a classic indie success story: a teenage lesbian love story filmed in only 21 days (with most of the cast and crew working for free) that became a Sundance hit, enjoyed modest commercial success, starred two young actresses who have since gone on to successful careers, and is still enjoyed by viewers almost eight years later.
Written and directed by the film is about Randy Dean (played by Laurel Holloman), a white girl from the wrong side of the tracks who lives with her lesbian aunt and her aunt’s girlfriend after her fanatically religious mother left her to work with Operation Rescue full-time. Randy is the school outcast, laughed at and called a “dyke” by the other kids because she looks kind of butch and “acts like a man”–think a lesbian version of Mary Stuart Masterson‘s character in Some Kind of Wonderful.
The girl she has a crush on is Evie (Nicole Ari Parker), a feminine, college-bound upper-class black girl who has lived alone with her mother (a developing-nations consultant) since her father divorced her mother when Evie was four to marry a white woman.
The two girls go to the same school, but move in completely different circles: Evie hangs with the popular girls, and Randy with her gee ky gay friend Frank. They meet late in their senior year when Evie has car trouble and asks for help at the gas station where Randy works, then later, end up in detention together. The girls form a friendship outside of school in which Evie introduces Randy to the wonder of opera and Walt Whitman, and Randy introduces Evie to her unique family and the wonders of being a social outcast.
“God, Evie, you are so sheltered,” Randy tells Evie, who responds “Well, un shelter me.”
Evie gets unsheltered fast, as her friends turn on her when she tells them she’s in love with Randy. “If you were going to turn gay,” one of them comments disdainfully, “you think you’d at least choose someone pretty.”
Things come to a head one weekend when Evie’s mom goes out of town and Evie invites Randy to stay the weekend. The girls end up sleeping together for the first time (in series of tender and sweet scenes), only to have Evie’s mom come home unexpectedly early and find them in bed together. A wild chase scene ensues, ending with the girls holed up together in a motel room while their angry family members pound on the door outside.
The film is funny, and sweet, and captures that earnestness that goes so well with teen angst. Holloman and Parker are excellent as Randy and Evie, even though it was the first movie for both heterosexual actresses. And although the film’s production value never loses its indie feel, the story and acting are interesting enough that you can ignore the low-budget feel most of the time.
Also, unlike many teen movies, this one actually incorporates the girls’ family into the story so that you get a real sense of the context in which Randy and Evie are struggling with their burgeoning relationship. Randy’s unique extended family arrangement makes a nice contrast to Evie’s more conventional household, and is one of the few cinematic portrayals of an alternative family available, even now.
Like any low-budget indie film, however, 2 Girls has its share of flaws: this is the first feature film for many of the people involved, and it shows. There are moments of overt preachiness, a few corny lines and abrupt transitions in places, and the ending of the film is a little too screwball-comedy-esque for my taste, as well (although that’s one of the things many other reviewers have really liked about the film.) The actress who plays Wendy (a married woman with whom Randy has the occasional tryst before meeting Evie) over-acts to the point of embarrassment, as do Evie’s friends occasionally.
It’s not as sophisticated as more recent lesbian teen flicks like All Over Me, Show Me Love, and Lost and Delirious, but it’s also not as cynical. The result is that you’re mostly willing to forgive the film’s clumsiness in places because it’s clearly trying so hard.
One of the strengths of the film is that it incorporates a host of social issues–class issues,gender issues, diversity within the lesbian community, alternative forms of family, racial diversity, peer pressure, religious fanaticism, homophobia, and gender roles–without ever feeling like an “issue” movie.
“I just really didn’t want to do a film with all white people in it,” writer and director Maria Maggenti comments in a 1995 interview with Soujourner magazine. “(That’s) just irritating. And I liked the idea of subverting some of our stereotypes about what are black women and what are white women. I was more interested in class, ultimately, than in race, you know? And I knew that would send people off in a bit of a tizzy: ‘Mmmm, how do you like that. Upper-middle-class black woman. Black girl who knows how to read.’ I mean, that’s real life, and it’s weird that people don’t show it in the movies more often.”
The film was a great launching pad for writer/director Maggenti–who went on to write the lesbian-themed movie The Love Letter and now writes for the successful TV series Without a Trace. It was also the beginning of great things for the actors: Laurel Holloman went on to play small roles in movies like Boogie Nights and The Myth of Fingerprints, then a recurring villain on the TV series Angel, and now plays a lesbian again in Showtime’s lesbian series The L Word. Nicole Ari Parker has since starred in several movies, as well, like Remember the Titans and Brown Sugar, and has been a central character on the Showtime series Soul Food for the last four years.
“A movie doesn’t change people’s lives,” Maggenti stated in the interview. “But it is part of a cultural landscape that hopefully moves a community forward. And if young people can see the film and think, ‘Wow! I’m okay,’ then that’s an important accomplishment.”
The Incredibly True Adventures of 2 Girls in Love definitely helped to move the community forward in 1995, since it was one of the few lesbian movies widely available and one of the first films about lesbian teenagers, period; its success helped to lay the groundwork for the crop of teen lesbian movies that have come out since then. It also continues to be an entertaining and worthwhile film despite its flaws.