There’s no other way to put it. This is not a review. It’s a goddam public service announcement.
Dear readers, last night it was brought to my attention that what Brother Chris and I do here on homoflix is not merely light-hearted fun, but sometimes an actual mission to protect you, your family, friends and allies from the horrendous shit that can worm its way into the gay and lesbian section of Netflix. Last night, I watched the 2008 stink bomb/1920s period piece Summer Lover (not to be confused with the 1982 Peter Gallagher/Daryl Hannah vehicle Summer Lovers or the totally decent if totally depressing lesbian flick My Summer of Love.)
It started innocently enough. A cold winter night, just about to bring in the last day of 2012. I’ve personally been in a bit of tailspin mode lately – willful procrastination and a bad alcohol moderation program I like to call One Day On, One Day Off – you get the picture. But this was an off-night and what better way to spend it than curling up with my curmudgeonly ex and our mutual friend to watch an instantly viewable film and eat chocolate chip cookies? The answer: ANYTHING. But how could we have known? We certainly attempted to be selective – the three of us run the sexual gamut and then there were the dogs’ feelings to consider – my pup Blue and an adorably territorial mutt named Bronco. Problem was, I had already seen near every “lesbian” selection on the site (and at this point I have to use the word lesbian loosely as Netflix seems to be curating certain selections into the batch with just such a laissez-faire attitude) and we didn’t really have the heart for Brittany Murphy’s Love and Other Disasters, which I interestingly misspelled as Distasters before spell check caught me. Too soon. Anyway, we should have just cued up Leading Ladies or the Topp twins documentary and called it a night. But the blood runs hot and we wanted sex. Enter Summer Lover. My old flame re-arranged her neck pillow, I slipped out of my binder and into a gender-neutralizing hoodie and we were ready to go.
Summer Lover is the story of a newly married American couple visiting Greece – Sappho and Phil. She’s loaded, he’s a painter. I couldn’t really tell if they were honeymooning or not. It seems like boom mics were not employed in the making of this film. And the dogs, sensing impending doom no doubt, were making sort of a fuss until Bluet wisely decided to spend the second half of the picture sleeping on a couch in the adjoining room. That said, I couldn’t hear shit. But boy did the visuals get me! Two seconds off the boat and these het love birds were making hot and steamy in their villa. I’ve relayed it before, but I don’t know how many times I’ve been subjected to a “queer” film that has a 9:1 ratio of straight to gay sex, and at this point in my life I don’t know quite how to distinguish the two in language except to say that this film privileges cisgender masculinity so pathologically, I actually felt myself to be experiencing a living nightmare for eighty-six minutes.
So newlyweds Phil and Saph really like to fuck each other and she’s supposed to be sort of crazytown, but I guess that’s supposed to be hot. Like she demeans his work, spouts stupid shit about freedom and gets her lustrous locks hacked off and decides she wants to be a boy after Phil does an oil painting of her with long hair. What emerged, according to my more discerning lady friends, was possibly the worst platinum bob of 2012. Even a priest crosses himself after he sees her emerge from a barber shop sporting her new ‘do like the completely boring, aesthetically confused harlot she is.
On her way out of that shop, she meets Helene, a mysterious Russian chick with a better bob. They drink ouzo in a cafe and begin what cannot even be described as a tortured love affair, unless you count what was happening on my side of the screen and in that case, yes: no descriptor would be too hyperbolic. Speeding through the plot a bit (it’s dull to recount, but I don’t want to leave any gaps in this review, on the off chance you have any curiosity left when I’m done), Phil and Helene meet, Sappho suggests they all boogie together, Helene falls for Phil, but still manages to give Sappho a really awesome orgasm on a rock beach – and we know it’s awesome because of the frequent cutaways to seagulls circling her head – and then tragedy. Or a suicide, reminiscent of Piper Perabo’s leap into oblivion in one of my coming-of-age faves Lost and Delirious, made with a young Mischa Barton before The OC and US Magazine collectively destroyed her spirit.
How did this film get the green light? What chops could Avalon Barrie (Sappho) possibly have displayed at the audition for this picture, except an ability to read English with moderate success? And how could shewired.com actually have listed this film in their “12 Amazing Lesbian Sex Scenes To Watch”? Media like this is the reason people have bad sex. For example, I’m a total fan of athletic, position-heavy penetration like the kind we get to see Phil and Saph have a fair amount of – and I have to confess these interludes were the one thing that kept me awake – but when these motions are confused with “good sex” or made the single standard, I think we have a problem (which more than one girl has gently reminded me over the course of my humble sexual career while I was plugging away like a valiant stunt double in my own life). People like Teresa de Laurentis and Laura Mulvey have way more compelling things to say about cinema, feminism and the gaze than I. But can anyone answer me this: why is it the last time I fell in love with a female onscreen orgasm, it was Lorelei Lee’s in Courtney Trouble’s 2009 Speakeasy and not in one of the “legitimate,” “sexy” films I have been able to sample for this blog? When’s the last time you fell in love with one?
I could also go on a much longer rant about the conflation of gender and sexuality in this film. I won’t though. It seems fairly obvious that director/writer Robert Crombie has a rather simplistic take on the matter and, in a pool that must have been deadly, this pic even managed to score a “Golden Aphrodite” at the Cypress International Film Festival. One fun moment, I must concede – Sappho butt-pumping the protesting Phil until she comes. Of course, moments later he’s going tit-for-tat on her ass in a moment of macho retribution, but a small silver lining, no less – the girl can’t help it. Or the boy she might become.