Once the last piece of confetti from Pride has been swept away, the next thing on my Lesbianland agenda is Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival. This is the annual film festival, sponsored by HBO, featuring the top films made by, for and about queer people. It is essentially the Cannes of queer film.
While others will be speaking of the cinematic merits of these films, I would really like to just tell you how they made me feel.
My first film was Jenny's Wedding. Mary Agnes Donohue, screenwriter of Beaches and White Oleander, offered us another great female lead in Jenny, played by Katherine Heigl. Then there are some great female supporting characters in Jenny's mother, Rose, played by Linda Emond and sister, Anne, played by Grace Gummer. Donohue wrote and directed this film about Jenny and her longtime girlfriend Kitty, played by Alexis Bledel, and their journey to the alter. Jenny is living her life and loving her girl when she realizes that she wants to take the next step, getting married and starting a family. The challenge is, Jenny's not out to her family.
So begins one of the most honest portrayals of the coming out experience I have seen on screen, at least for this woman. I remember being just like Jenny, racked with anxiety when she decides to finally come out to her parents. The coming out scenes with her parents were hard to watch. The lines, while not verbatim, were so much like ones that I heard during my own coming out process. The reactions felt so honest and on point, I definitely found myself crying in recognition of hearing the disappointment and confusion; of watching Jenny become increasingly defiant when she finally allowed herself to stop pretending.
This film was really about awakening. Each character had their own awakening. Each was set on a new path because Jenny wanted to finally be honest about her life and her love. This story of what happens when we let go of the illusions and live our lives out loud is uplifting at best and devastatingly familiar at worst.
They chose to premiere the film at Outfest. I thought it was pretty cool and a bit brave to premiere it here. This was a straight writer/director and cast. This is, as I said, the Cannes of queer films. They clearly had nothing to worry about. Yet, they were buoyant with the reception they received from the Outfest audience. Katherine Heigl used the word grace. It was just as important to them to be honest about the story as it is to us living that story. This is what an ally is.
Donohue said she was inspired to write it when she saw a family member go through the wedding process and the struggles that her family was challenged with. It was funny because the audience seemed kind of floored that something so honestly queer could be written, directed and acted all by straight people. I imagine it feels gratifying to know that you got it right.
Each of the main characters had their own subplot, as much as I loved Rose, the mother. I was really blown away by Anne, Jenny's sister. Her awakening was the most gratifying to watch. It was an awakening I have seen in others and it too was really honest and completely scarily accurate. It is the reason why living our truth can have ripple effects way beyond our understanding. It was because Anne witnessed what happened for Jenny, she was able to find the courage to heal and live her own truth.
This film will be released July 31 and I am encouraging you to go see it. Take your lover, partner, friend, parent, sister, brother, wife. I laughed and cried and cheered (silently). I thought of PFLAG groups all over the country taking their members on a field trip. I thought of taking my mother and sister when they come visit me this summer.
I was so grateful for this movie. I found myself smiling all over again while I wrote this. It felt good. Plus, it was a story of a woman finally ready to get married to the girl of her dreams. Which essentially means it's the ultimate lesbian chick flick. It was the story of living your truth thereby helping others to do the same. Again, chicks love movies about women living their truth. It's a great summer movie for Girls Night Out or date night.
Jenny's Wedding opens July 31.