itty bitty titty committee

itty bitty titty committee

2007
Written: Tina Mabrey and Abigail Shafran
Directed: Jamie Babbit

Some of the best minds working in lesbian film today got together in a room and the best title they could come up with was Itty Bitty Titty Committee? I have as good a sense of humour as the next dyke, but considering that they only tied the title into the film in the last 2.3 seconds (and that not very well) it leads me to believe that somebody thought it was far funnier than it actually is.

For those of you who don’t know, Itty Bitty Titty Committee (which I’m now going to refer to as IBTC, mainly because it’s terrible) is the first feature film produced by the organisation known as PowerUP. Mainly through savvy publicity, the group has stylised themselves as the word in lesbian entertainment. Until IBTC they’d mainly given film grants to short filmmakers (which helped Angela Robinson produced the original D.E.B.S short film). Their membership list does in fact read like a who’s who of lesbians in showbiz (minus queen Ellen herself).

These gals got together and decided that it was time to fund a feature film. They get Jamie Babbit to direct, a smart move. They decide to focus on something important to the lesbian community, also a solid decision. They cast relative unknowns in the leads and reserve the powerful names for well-placed cameos (Guinevere Turner, Melanie Lynskey, Jenny Schimizu and Clea DuVall). The film has some street cred on paper.

So why did they pay so little attention to the script? I wish Guin Turner had done less acting and more fine-tuning of the dialogue, because we know she can write, quite superbly when given a chance. The film is a fumbling, confused collection of scenes, lifted from somebody’s memories (or cliches) of their student activist days, exaggerated by a thousand for comic effect.

Anyone who was into radical politics in their younger and wilder days will recognise something in these characters. The naïve newbie who falls for the charismatic leader of the pack. The intelligent plotter who mourns the lack of publicity despite all their efforts. The struggling artist types. Hell, I even knew the reject ex-military types who had a strong desire to blow things up.

The film’s radical group is called CiA (Clits in Action), which would have made a better name for the film. They mess around vandalising parks and shopfronts, including defacing the front of a breast augmentation clinic, which is where Sadie, the group’s leader, meets Anna for the first time. Anna is a confused, depressed lesbian who has just been dumped by her girlfriend and works as a receptionist at the clinic. Sadie comes along at just that time in her life when she is most susceptible (something which does wonders for the cliché of both lesbians and activists as recruiters of the young and vulnerable), and convinces her to come to a CiA meeting.

For the next hour we’re given a hand-held tour through the history of the women’s movement, from references to The Feminine Mystique, statistics on the repression of women, and a soundtrack of riot grrl music (provided by the Kill Rock Stars label). Anna’s education is meant to be ours as well, only for those of us who have already learned the lessons of feminism and activism, the trip down memory lane feels a tad redundant.

IBTC kicks into gear in the third act when Anna presents the CiA with a daring and radical plan. It is absurd, but is carried off with enthusiasm by the cast who seem to warm into their roles. The love story is sweet, but the ending is utterly ridiculous, even if it does provide a few laughs.

Visually IBTC owes a lot to Down and Out with the Dolls, and the plot is cartoonish in the same way that But I’m a Cheerleader was but without the originality. I suspect this is a film best enjoyed in groups where the laughter is infectious. Keep your expectations low and your spirits high.

I guess I just expected more from the kind of combined imaginative (and financial!) power these filmmakers had available to them. Without giving too much of the ending away, I also truly believe the lesbian community deserved more from PowerUP than a film which is essentially the world's longest dick joke.

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