Happiness Adjacent: low budget, lower quality

Happiness Adjacent (Rob Williams, 2018) is one and a half hours of glaringly objective proof that you can’t just get on a cruise with an iPhone 3 and make a feature-length movie. (Okay, fine, an iPhone 6, but that doesn’t make it any better.) The film explores a story reminiscent gay p*rn: a straight married man (Kurt) who ends up falling for a gay guy (Hank) on a cruise. Hank narrates the film in voiceover, either as an omnipotent voice or in conversation with a towel in sunglasses which represents his friend Brian (no really), who abandoned him last-minute to sail the gulf of Mexico alone. It turns out low budget sometimes does mean low quality.

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To Each, Her Own: one mess after another

Closeted lesbian grows up in oppressive religious household, denounces her faith and escapes to the bright lights of the city: we’ve all seen that movie. To Each, Her Own (Myriam Aziza, 2018) ー terrible title, by the way, but we’ll get to that ー focuses on the crises that come after.

Simone, comes from an Orthodox Jewish family and lives with her “room-mate and best friend” (family code for lesbian lover) Claire. Just as she finally thinks she’s ready to come out to her family, she falls for Sengalese chef Wali (a man). A novel and intriguing concept, of course, but where could it possibly lead? Well, as it turns out, both absolutely everywhere and resoundingly nowhere. Let’s get into this hot-mess-express of a shitshow movie, shall we? […]

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Four More Years: a not-so-innocent rom-com

After they first sleep together, Martin does everything he can to not let David get away. First, he makes him breakfast. Next, he drives David to his parents’ house in rural Sweden and they spend another night together. After driving David back into Stockholm the next day, Martin knows that this is as long as he can cling on; now, he must let David go back home, and hope that he comes back to him after his homosexual comedown. Fortunately for us, this is a romantic comedy, so I don’t think it spoils anything to say that’s not the end of their love story.

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Wish You: a flawed but precious rom-com

Soft acoustic pop and passing cars lead into lingering glances across a sleeping city. Adoring fan Sang-i gazes longingly at street singer Kang In-su as he strums his way through a soppy ballad, the almost-title track “Wish For You”. Initial seeds of romance are planted within the first 2 minutes; yet, we are forced to wait with baited breath until the last 2 minutes to see whether the buds will blossom. This, of course, begs the question: how much do we really gain along the way? […]

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A New York Christmas Wedding: the best and the worst film you’ve ever seen

Starting this film off, I had to google to check whether it was, in fact, queer. Fortunately, after an appearingly heterosexual opening, the lesbianism arrives ー slowly, and then all at once. Just to reassure you: the titular New York Christmas Wedding does end up being a New York Christmas Lesbian Wedding. More accurately, a A New York Christmas Surprise Lesbian Catholic Wedding. But we’ll get to that. […]

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Duck Butter: an experiment in chaotic realism

Duck butter, or “manteca de pato”, is a term for (and excuse the graphic description) thick white discharge around the vagina. Viscerally, this is quite an off-putting term, but it is also a lightly humorous one, and perhaps even subtly charming. This is a good representation of the film as a whole. And while the […]

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But I’m a Cheerleader: hilarious parody with a heart

Come one now. It’s a gay classic at this point. You’d think that a whimsical comedy about queer kids forced to attend conversion therapy camp wouldn’t work at all… but it so does. Let me tell you why. But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit, 1999) focuses around the story of Megan (Natasha Lyone), a timid 17-year-old coming to terms with her sexuality. At an intervention, her friends and family affront her with hilariously problematic lesbian stereotypes that she seems to follow, such as “being a vegetarian” and “liking Melissa Etheridge’s music”. They decide that she should be sent to “True Directions”, a gay conversion therapy camp that imposes 1950s-style gender roles on its unwilling teenage attendees.

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Love, Simon isn’t a queer film

“I’m just like you, I have a perfectly normal life” says our protagonist Simon, as the camera shows him outside his large house in the suburbs getting a 4×4 for his birthday. Ah yes, it is clear from this opening shot, or even from the trailer and a quick glance at the cast, that Love, Simon is a gay film made for a cis, straight, white, middle-class audience. Or at the very least made to be palatable to The Hetties™. That doesn’t make it a bad film, but it is glaringly apparent, even in the first two minutes of the film. Then again, as (self-proportedly) the first film by a major Hollywood studio to focus on a gay teenage romance, it is a step in the white direction. I mean the right direction. Didn’t I say that? […]

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The Half of It: a muted autumnal almost-romance

The Half Of It (Alice Wu, 2020) is your classic American teen romcom with a twist: it’s GAY. Lesbian, specifically. Maybe bisexual on one half; it’s hard to tell. Typical high school nerd Ellie Chu writes other people’s school essays for money to help support her father. One day she is commissioned by Paul to write a love letter to beautiful popular girl Aster, and it works almost too well. Ellie writes with increasing passion to Aster, who thinks she’s Paul, and a complicated pseudo-relationship progresses. I’m not going to lie, it’s a great premise. And, despite some clumsiness, it mostly delivers. […]

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Yes or No: pure Thai lesbian cuteness

This film could be mistaken for a simple and harmless lesbian teen rom-com. In the West and in 2020, we are lucky to have quite a few of those. But when it premiered 10 years ago in a then quite conservative Thailand, it was the country’s first lesbian film with a butch protagonist. Knowing this, the narrative’s insistence on focusing on Kim’s tomboyishness as a barrier to her friendships and relationships makes a lot more sense. We’ll go into that more later…

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