Director: The Wachowski Sisters
Running Time: 108 minutes.
Ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) is newly hired as a painter and plumber in an apartment building where former prostitute Violet (Jennifer Tilly) lives with her boyfriend Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), who is part of the mafia. When Caesar is entrusted by the mafia to look after two million dollars, Violet seduces Corky and the two hatch a plan to rob Caesar of the money. They have to work within a tight timeframe, before Caesar hands off the money to his associates Gino and Johnnie. The Sapphic pair inadvertently jumpstart a chain of violence and cover-ups. As the bodies pile up, Caesar slowly suspects he has been doublecrossed.
The film plays with expectations in the film noir genre, just as it plays with societal expectations of lesbian appearance and behavior. The Wachowski sisters subvert the femme fatale with Tilly’s Violet, all the while giving the audience an electric shot of blood, sex, and malice.
Director: Dee Rees
Running Time: 86 minutes
Pariah is the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye), an introverted black teenager who daily brings to school a separate set of clothes, clothes too butch for her conservative parents. She has only one friend, high school dropout and openly lesbian Laura (Pernell Walker), who helps her navigate the lesbian experience of strap-ons and AGs (short for “aggressive girls,” similar to “butch”). Alike’s parents disapprove of the friendship, especially her uptight mother Audrey (Kim Wayans), who, suffering from her own internalized prejudice about being black, forces Alike to befriend a straight black girl from church. Meanwhile, Laura has to contend with her own economic situation, forced out of her home by her own mother.
Dee Rees paints a stark but tender and ultimately uplifting experience of growing up black, female, and lesbian in America, elegantly tackling intersectionality without being preachy or prosaic. Oduye delivers a quiet, moving performance as a young woman growing up conflicted about her identity. The film won an Excellence in Cinematography Award in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.
Director: Alice Wu
Running Time: 91 minutes
Language: English and Mandarin
Wil (Michelle Krusiec), a young Chinese American surgeon and closeted lesbian, has to deal with her mother Hwei-lang Gao’s (Joan Chen) demands that she date a nice, presentable Chinese man so she can finally have a family life to go with her successful career. She is forced to regularly attend Planet China, a restaurant attended by fellow Chinese Americans, where she catches the eye of beautiful free-spirit Vivian, a ballet dancer, who also happens to be Wil’s boss’s daughter. Just as Vivian slowly breaks down Wil’s resistance, Wil learns that her mom is now a pariah in her social circle: she is newly pregnant, but Wil’s dad died several years ago. Wil is faced with the problem of finding a suitable man for her mother, while dealing with being in the closet as a minority in America.
Director Alice Wu also wrote the script, sharing her own experiences of coming out. The film deals with the conflict between later-generation immigrants who have come to enjoy the liberal attitudes of an immigrant society versus the earlier-generation whose survival in a new country depended on their adherence to traditional values. Both women have to disentangle themselves with the psychological baggage of their culture, and their journey is tenderly portrayed in this comedy of minority manners.
What do you guys think of these selections? Have you seen any of them already? Do you have other films that you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments! Stay tuned for the next few weeks as we give you guys more wonderful LGBTQ+ movie recommendations!
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The second half of this article was published in the November 2015 LGBT Special Issue of Arellano Law Gazette.