love on the side

love on the side

2004
Director: Vic Sarin
Writer: Brigitte Talevski

The original title for this little Canadian film was Deluxe Combo Platter, and that fits it so much better than the corny title they came up with, which is probably the worst dumbing down of a good concept title since Show Me Love.

The fact is, Sarin and Talevski have created a reasonable feel good film here, and it's a pity that in order to sell it (probably because of all that nasty lesbian content!) somebody thought that it needed a catchier, sappier title. It doesn't. It totters along cheerfully on it's own two feet, and is buoyed along happily by Marla Sokoloff as Eve, who I haven't seen since her days as the perky receptionist in The Practice.

Love on the Side is one of a zillion stories that starts out being about a small town waitress who has talents (drawing and painting in this case) and who longs for a better life. What keeps her in her small town is money (or lack thereof) and a huge, unrequited crush on local football hero Jeff (Barry Watson from 7th Heaven).

Then one day a tall, gorgeous stranger arrives in town with a mysterious purpose. Linda is friendly, but she also looks like a model, and Jeff targets her right off for his trademark charm. Only Linda isn't interested in guys, she's interested in Eve, and a classic romcom love triangle is born. Despite what initially feels like strange casting (why does the gorgeous Linda fall for the frumpy Eve?) after a while you stop noticing so much and go with the flow. Of course, if your disbelief can't be suspended you'll start making those gagging noises in the first ten minutes.

The expectation I know I have with films like these are that lesbians can exist, but only to play second fiddle to whatever hetero concurrent storyline is going on. We don't have much of a difference here, but refreshingly, the film remains firmly centred on the two women in the first half, not digressing too much into boy territory until it's required to drive the happily-ever-after narrative.

People who hated Kissing Jessica Stein would be wise to steer clear, because while the happily ever after does include the lesbians, it is certainly not the main characters who go sailing off into the sunset. Personally, not for one second did I believe that Eve and Linda would end up together, but the relationship was positive enough to keep me interested well into the third reel. Then the inevitable heterosexual saccharine kicks in, but your tolerance for it will really depend on how into the characters (gay and straight) you are by that point.

This is a story about how you never really know what anyone else is going through. The beautiful woman might not be any happier than the frumpy one. The jock might not be as confident as he makes out to be. Being gay isn't that much different from being anything else that sets you apart from the crowd. Reality and expectation so seldom meet, and opening your eyes to the signs people give out is the only way to really know someone else.

Look, it's cute as button and maybe a bit wholesome for many. Love on the Side has some of the small town goofiness of It's In The Water (though it's not nearly as funny), the cheekiness of Relax, It's Just Sex (thanks to a supporting role for Jennifer Tilly), with a built-in slightly more emotional edge, but nothing deeper than your average teen flick. If you like these kinds of movies, you could perhaps give this a shot, because it's maybe just good enough to just rise above its home-town cliches.

the l word: pilot

the l word: pilot

chasing amy

chasing amy