When’s the last time a foreign exchange student with a chronic bloody nose and ridiculous baby doll dress fell into your lap? I thought so. But that’s why we have movies, and with XTube mysteriously non-functional in my dismally furnished out-of-town apartment last night, I said: what the hell – how about romance instead of sex this eve? (Who ever said self-reflexive chivalry was dead?) Decision made, I cued up Jack and Diane, a relatively new addition to Netflix, which mercifully has no direct relation to John Cougar Mellencamp and gets extra points for numerous scenes of adolescent face-down bed masturbation. So much for courtly love, but a good reminder that high school wasn’t all bad.
Before I embark on my usual low-brow, fast and cheap analysis, I think I need to address the last review I produced, a little puff piece on that snore-fest Puccini for Beginners. An ex recently called me up to ask what was wrong after reading my blurb, to inquire after the tepid writing and bland pronouncements. I was somewhat taken aback, knowing in my heart she wasn’t off-track. I’ve recently been experiencing a deep sadness around the queer cinema available to me these days and that has been exacerbated by the reality of being far from accessible queer culture for the last month. (okCupid! Hartford = slim pickin’s.) Everytime I refresh my Netflix browser, all I pray to see are some moderately cute people telling me some moderately decent stories. All I get are message like, “Queer actors don’t exist!” … “This will be better if straight people can watch along!” … “Sure, nails like that won’t be a deterrent to awesome sex!” Granted, there are still the classics … Desert Hearts, Parting Glances, does High Art sort of count … but all these films are at least fifteen years old.
Case in point, recently I was in bed with a friend and I actually suggested that we watch We Have To Stop Now: Season Two. Way to go, Barbagallo. What in the name of goodness and peace was I thinking? Did I want to sleep on the couch? Now, in my defense, I had actually seen season one and considered this viewing (bullshit alert) an extension of my original criticism, not to mention the fact I was watching on newly discovered www.buskfilms.com (not bullshit/my review for Luke Woodward’s Enough Man pending); nonetheless, it was an unacceptable selection. Mercifully, my friend was so bored, making out with me in the face of offensively innocuous fluff actually became the only option. So maybe I am a genius. Still, it ruffled my feathers. I don’t want to be the kind of person who is sleeping through the whole experience of my life in lieu of dogfighting my own internalized homophobia once in awhile. I don’t want to be the kind of person who’s not pioneering a shitty, precarious, cultural minefield out of mental laziness or shame. I don’t want to be the kind of person who introduces a new gay to queer film by showing them a web vehicle for Suzanne Westenhoefer. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6cnhPfuhvI … For the record, I think she’s great, but that’s more like something I wanna tell you on the seventh date or enjoy privately with a slab of artificial crab meat and a stained pair of yoga pants.)
So, from now on I’m going to make that extra effort. I’m going to make it my responsibility to make these reviews as damn good as I can, even if the work is bad and the situations implausible. In other words, I’m going to accept the fact that I am not just a passive viewer in these situations at the cinema, but a participant in artistic exchange and a creator in my own right. Freshman semiotics, anyone? Notes on Camp, perhaps? Now, manifesto tucked safely in flannel sheets, where was I …
Jack and Diane could be simply classified as a lesbian werewolf story, if the werewolf subplot made a modicum of sense. The basic premise is that our teenage protagonists are slowly and awkwardly falling in love for the first time and whenever these love/lust feelings are intensely sparked in one of them, they begin to bleed or have a hairy vision. And sometimes violence ensues. I’ll make this announcement now: IGNORE THESE SEQUENCES – THEY HAVE NO BEARING ON THE PLOT, YOUR ENJOYMENT, OR THE AESTHETIC SUCCESS OF THE FILM. My suggestion: blink your eyes every eight to twelve minutes and focus instead on the subtler, gorgeous things happening in between the bizarro, ultra-dark, metaphorical cut-aways of weird hair stalks and ambiguous goo oozing out of equally ambiguous fissures and, ultimately, leading nowhere. This lens, compatriots, is the ticket to a rather swoony night, in my opinion, if you also ignore another completely unnecessary subplot involving date rape. More is less, Bradley Rust Gray, more is less.
Diane, played by total dreamboat Juno Temple, is a dazed and confused naïf, on holiday in New York via the UK. She’s lost her phone, her wallet and apparently her sister. Bombshell stumbles into a tattoo shop on the Lower East (run by Michael Chernus, for those theatre dorks among you) and who stumbles back: brooding soft butch Jack, portrayed by equally hot Riley Keough. Next thing you know, they’re hangin’ out on a couch! Then they’re at a club! Then it’s morning! And in-between all this Diane’s nose will just not stop bleeding. And she throws up in an alley. But Jack’s like, “Whatever. I like you. Throw-up and all.” And isn’t that the true heart of all deep feeling? Some night over a cognac, I might tell you about a certain oral exchange in my life that ended similarly, something I like to call “The Romance of a Solid Gag Reflex.”
Anyway, lots of things happen along the way in this film, but they are tiny, observational things … does anyone remember Tara Subkoff and crew in All Over Me? Same feeling, except you don’t have to worry about anybody’s creepy boyfriend ruining the affair. We’ve got a cameo by a tattooed Kylie Minogue for that and now I can click off Fantasy #138 on my Secret Desires of Baby Butches list. To say Jack and Diane is driving to any actual location would be an overstatement and frankly, it’s an unneccessary goal; for my taste, I prefer the ride over any destination any day. Initially, I was uber-frustrated by the awkward silences between the young lovers, some of their less savory scat talk and a generally defiant or dismissive attitude towards authority figures, particularly Diane’s long-suffering aunt who kinda looks like she’s been on a bender even in complete sobriety. (There’s a great scene where Diane attempts to shave her cunt to Electrelane in an effort to please Jack – I know, swallow – and the elder lady, who just really needs to take a slash in her own bathroom, gets called in for the assist.) Then, I realized that I am just old. Period. And that this is a movie about teenagers and while I resemble a twelve-year old with premature frown lines, I am actually going to turn thirty this year. AAAHHH!
Okay, it’s time for me to walk the dog and there’s absolutely no euphemism intended. This is what I do now. I walk the dog, I go to work and I anticipate my mother’s arrival in Hartford, CT this afternoon with a mixture of fear and … fear. I don’t clean my carpet for just anyone (second non-euphemism), but Carol B. is truly the exception to the rule. If only I could figure out how to erase the porn history from my laptop now. Proof that you never actually stop being an adolescent.
Signing off, I love you, write me, follow us, watch movies, talk about them.