the book club
Written: Amanda Tremblay and Megan Schlegel
Directed: Amanda Tremblay
In 2008 Writer/Director/Producer Angela Robinson wrote a lesbian filmmaker's manifesto on AfterEllen.com, calling for all lesbians with ideas to grab their cameras and start shooting. With digital video so cheap and accessible and the Internet available as a means of distribution, there has never been a better time for guerilla filmmaking. This project predates Angela's article, but it could almost be the perfect response to that calling.
A bunch of artistic friends from Nevada got together and to make this no-budget. The screenplay was written by partners Amanda Tremblay and Megan Schlegel. Because they all had day jobs they could only film on weekends. So began a true labour of love, and it really does show. These are a bunch of really creative, talented people.
Due to budget restraints, this was never going to win prizes for best cinematography, but it certainly isn't terrible. The script is winsome and interesting, and the film doesn't try and complicate things by putting too much in or by being too long. A couple of good-looking leads and a neat little story hook, and hey presto, you have amovie.
This is a very simple love story. Kate falls for Hannah, a straight girl who runs a local bakery that specialises in dog treats. Of course, she has the classic gay-girl-loves-straight-girl fantasies of her dream woman dumping her boyfriend and running away with her. Unfortunately it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Instead, Hannah invites Kate to her book club, a monthly meeting of successful (straight) women. After being pressed to nominate a book for the next meeting, Kate offers up an unusual title - an erotic book about a dashing lesbian pirate named Raven.
The women in the book club read the book, and find themselves so turned on that their sex lives instantly improve. The similarities between this and the popularity of lesbian slash fanfic is kinda hilarious. Kate on the other hand is still suffering her straight-girl crush, and complains about it to her gay boy friends. They in turn set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates. Finally, fed up with the situation, Kate accepts a job in San Francisco, hoping that running away from it all will solve her entire problem.
The news that Kate is leaving and the feelings she gets from reading the book finally spur Hannah into action, but is she brave enough to leave her straight life and perfect boyfriend behind? You'll have to watch the film!
Littered throughout are black and white excerpts from the lesbian erotic novel that all the women are reading, and these are the parts that are truly funny. Raven, the lesbian pirate, has a seductive catchphrase that is repeated over and over. The fact that you come to expect it just makes it funnier. Eventually, the straight women reading the book begin to imagine themselves as characters being seduced by the gay pirate, and they all lose their virtues to her all-too-persuasive charms.
Cicely Mendoza, the actress playing Kate, is easy to like and very cute. She has a natural beauty that isn't showy, and I bought her as a lesbian. The remainder of the book club was well cast, though the side plot involving the overly-christian woman and her lover dragged the film a little bit.
Considering we're never going to get films made and distributed by the big studios in the quantities we want or with the content we love, these films are like gold dust. I'm really surprised (and a little disappointed) that this film wasn't picked up by the major lesbian film festivals. It is every bit as good, if not better, than most of the stuff you see every year. My rating is probably a little inflated, but I can't resist a good romance. I genuinely enjoyed watching this movie. That is, after all, the whole point.