Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel


Written and directed by Maria Maggenti. Photography, Tami Reiker. Editing, Susan Graef. Production design, Ginger Tougas. Music, Terry Dame. Cast: Laurel Holloman (Randy), Nicole Parker (Evie), Maggie Moore (Wendy), et al. A Fineline release. 95 minutes. Rated R (sexual situations)
In recent pictures, "The Incredibly True Adventure Of Two Girls In Love," and "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain" set the season's record for length. "Two Girls..." could have used three more words at the end ("With Each Other") to catch up with "The Englishman..." and to be more specific.

Writer-director Maggenti, a Smith graduate (philosophy and classics) and perhaps by now also a Graduate Film Program alumna of NYU, has been successful with short films. This is her first feature, one whose small cost (ca. $110.000) is in inverse proportions to the movie's title.

TITAOTGIL is a simple little film that's easy to like. In an unspecified suburb, tomboyish high school senior Randy, lives with her lesbian aunt and the aunt's past lover and current lover. They inhabit a cramped and messy low-income house. Randy also works at her aunt's gas station, one so run down that you'd never want to rob it.

Randy has periodic, furtive and quick sex in the station's bathroom with bimboid 27-year old Wendy who is made of swaying curves and has a husband. But this is not love.

Love comes when Randy, who is white and gay, and another senior, Evie, who is African-American and has a boy-friend, finally notice one another. Their relationship is "simpatico," and when consumated quite tame. Particularly warm is the diffident way the two begin to touch each others' hand on a cafe table and quite amusing is the first kiss, when each girl must first remove chewing-gum from her mouth.

The film was made by an almost entirely female crew of a variety of sexual persuasions. Lesbianism here is treated in a natural, matter-of-fact way, with not even a soupcon of self-consciousness, preaching or defensiveness. The movie goes its mostly quiet, low-key, sentimental way without sugariness. It has a pretty keen eye and ear for the talk and behavior of 17-year olds. It doesn't make a fuss about some schoolmates' anti-gay feelings or even when Evie loses her three best friends.

The clever, basic twist in the story is a reversal of the societal situations, roles and values found in most films. Pretty, well-traveled Evie comes from a wealthy family. Her unseen stepfather is on a mission to Africa, sent there by his bank (the World Bank?). Her mother, a gourmet and wine connoisseur, is an agricultural economist (director Maggenti's was one too). They live in a mansion whose luxury and orderliness make the Randy home look like a hovel. Evie's now remarried natural father showers gifts on his daughter, the latest one being a pricey Range Rover vehicle. And Evie is "intellectual." She presents Randy with a well-thumbed copy of "Leaves of Grass," a gift that speaks of Evie's love of literature and probably of her curiosity about other roads sex.

When Evie's mother returns early from a trip and finds the girls in bed together, the tone of the film changes radically as the romance becomes high comedy. The girls flee to a motel (also so shabby that it couldn't get robbed) where soon the entire cast of characters converge in pandemonium, as in a French bedroom farce: Mom, Auntie, Auntie's lovers, Randy's one male friend (gay), the statuesque Wendy, her husband, Evie's ex-girlfriends.

One of them knocks on a door. Two befuddled old ladies in old dressing gowns open. Confused, they ask: "Were you sent by our husbands?" Same-sex love has no boundaries.

The movie is not without gauche aspects, rough edges, loose threads or awkward blocking. Its main defect is unsound sound recording, something that is oddly rampant today given the progress in techniques. Speech can be unclear, pingy, pointy or echoey, something that is compounded by the actors' ( all amateurs or inexperienced professionals, but quite good) lack of training in elocution. But I liked some of the movie's original music, and the speech unclarities merely hinder rather than spoil the film. The picture is no cinematic gem, but it is a pretty endearing first feature.

Copyright © Edwin Jahiel

Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel