Five ‘Prideful’ movies all about usMovie Review Thursday, July 19th, 2012
While most of you will probably be spending Pride weekend watching the parade, buying overpriced food at the festival, and/or sipping mimosas at queer brunches, some of you may want to be proud in the comfort of your own home. Or you may want to continue Pride after the weekend on your couch, nursing a headache. Below are my suggestions for five movies about us that should make you feel prideful. Despite our great strides over the last few decades, and despite a few dozen queer film masterpieces, we still have a dearth of uplifting movies about us. These five are among the exceptions.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Arguably the most beloved queer movie of all time, Priscilla is funny, exciting, bizarre and moving, and it features some of the greatest costumes exposed to film. Three drag queens – two female impersonators (a restrained Weaving and an outrageous Pearce) and a transsexual (a brilliant Stamp) – drive a bus across the Australian outback to perform at a remote casino, and like any good road trip movie, there are some wacky adventures on the way. Many of them involve our three heroes in outfits that Lady Gaga would kill for. The soundtrack of Abba and classic disco is fabulous, like everything in this crowd-pleasing cult classic.
Admittedly, Stonewall is not a great movie, but it’s a pretty fun potboiler; a fictionalized version of the events leading up to the Stonewall Riots; the event that every Pride around the world commemorates. Director Nigel Finch splices interviews with actual rioters, a drag Greek chorus lip-synching to 1960s girl groups, and a soap opera about a young activist (Weller, way before In Plain Sight) finding his way and a drag queen (Boutte) managing a difficult relationship with her mafia boyfriend (Bruce MacVittie). This is narrated by another queen, La Miranda, played by a pre-bear Guillermo Díaz, (Party Girl, Weeds, Scandal).
Beautiful Thing (1996)
One of the sadly few gay romances that end – spoiler alert! – happily, Beautiful Thing is woefully under-recognized and under-watched. Set in working class southeast London, the movie focuses on Jamie (Berry), who lives with his single, struggling mother (Henry) and next door to studly Ste (Neal). When Ste’s dad beats him, he moves in with Jamie and romance blooms. Leah (Tameka Empson) is Jamie’s best friend and, oddly, obsessed with Mama Cass. A simple story, but it is so sensitively and sweetly executed, it is pure joy.
Like Priscilla, Transamerica is a road movie with a transgender lead, but unlike Priscilla, Transamerica is actually about what it means to be transgender. Bree (Huffman) is very close to being approved by her psychologist for sex reassignment surgery when she is called to take custody of Toby (Zegers), the delinquent, troubled son she had when she was a straight man. But Toby has no idea that Bree is his father. In addition to featuring Huffman’s brilliant, robbed-of-her-Oscar performance, Transamerica is a subversive and sensitive film about gender and family.Pariah (2011)
I’ve been raving about Pariah in these pages at every opportunity, and I’m about to do it again. There are several difficult, even upsetting moments in Pariah, but teenage Brooklyn lesbian Alike (Oduye) is so brave and so self-assured that she’s downright heroic. Writer and director Dee Rees depicts the acceptance of homosexuality (or lack thereof) in the African American family in a rare way, with subtlety and fairness. It is one of the best lesbian movies ever made.
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