Brian Wayne Peterson
Natasha Lyonne (Megan Williams)
Clea DuVall (Graham Eaton)
Dante Basco (Dolph)
Eddie Cibrian (Rock Brown)
Bud Cort (Peter Williams)
Melanie Lynskey (Hilary)
Wesley Mann (Lloyd Morgan-Gordon)
Richard Moll (Larry Morgan-Gordon)
Kip Pardue (Clayton)
Katrina Phillips (Jan)
Mink Stole (Nancy Williams)
Katharine Towne (Sinead)
Cathy Moriarty (Mary J. Brown)
Michelle Williams (Kimberly)
Julie Delpy (Lipstick Lesbian)
mpaa rating: R
release: July 21, 2000
availability: VHS -
Everyone thinks Natasha Lyonne
is a lesbian, so she gets sent to a special camp ("True
Directions") where young gay people are conditioned to be
You mean the hetero-izing process,
or the movie?
Not even close. It's trying
way too hard to be a John Waters movie -- it's even got
Waters regular Mink Stole as Natasha's mom. It's also trying
too hard to be a cult comedy -- Bud Cort turns up as Natasha's
dad, and the sight of Stole, Cort, and Lyonne at the dinner table
(saying grace, yet) should be funkier than it is. Waters
would've had a field day with this idea; so would Alexander Payne,
whose satire would've been more even-handed.
a promising premise, though.
It does, but the movie blows
it by (A) trading in witless stereotypes and (B) not being remotely
funny, despite the Roger Ebert blurb on the DVD box (was he on
laughing gas or something?). A great comedy or drama could've
been made about the whole "I Used to Be Gay Until I Turned
to God" thing (an appalling real-life phenomenon), and this
Yeah, the gay guys are your
basic swishes, and the parents are uptight assholes without fail.
The only group allowed to have some variety are the lesbians,
who include Clea DuVall as a tomboy named Graham, Katharine Towne
as a surly goth chick, Katrina Phillips as a butch jock, and
Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures) as the sort of bashful
girl she usually plays, only lesbian (she and Lyonne had just
been in Detroit
Rock City together). But really even the lesbians fall
into generally recognized dyke stereotypes (although the dykiest
one -- the butch jock -- turns out to be hetero after all).
another case of "dykes are chic, fags are funny"?
Very much. We're encouraged
to laugh at pretty much every instance of gay male identity (stereotyped
or otherwise) we see. Example: Two former True Directions members,
a gay couple named Larry and Lloyd Morgan-Gordon (Richard Moll
and Wesley Mann), are sympathetic characters -- they take some
of the kids out for a night at a gay club (called the Cocksucker,
and show me the community that'd allow a club with that
name within fifty miles of the town limits), and provide shelter
for TD's outcasts. But they're still the standard-issue bickering
gay couple, and even their hyphenated name is meant to be a joke.
Conversely, no particular lesbian
traits come in for much goofing. During the kids' "gender
identity training," the girls are competent enough at the
housewife skills they're taught, whereas the gay boys are haplessly
inept at football, car repair, cutting wood, etc., and are easily
distracted by the camp supervisor's hunky son. This movie is
basically for lesbians and for hetero women who enjoy gay men
as sources of comfort and campy humor. Gay men may likely, and
rightly, take the movie as a slap in the face.
give an example of the sort of meant-to-be-funny casting we're
RuPaul, in guy mode, plays
one of TD's trainers. He makes his first appearance wearing a
"Straight Is Great" T-shirt. (Didn't he notice
how much fag-minstrelsy was in the script?) Cathy Moriarty is
the camp supervisor, and her scenes with Lyonne have some potential
for amusement given that the prematurely deep-voiced Lyonne is
basically Moriarty 20 years ago, but instead you just note that
Moriarty hasn't aged well and hope Lyonne has a better time of
Weird. I mean, not intentionally,
but seeing her being all cheerleader-y in this after seeing her
scruffy riot-grrl performance in Confessions
of a Trickbaby (aka Freeway 2) is ... well ...
weird. I'm not sure she sells the cheerleader aspect -- they
needed more of a bouncy Reese Witherspoon type, or Laura Dern
15 years ago -- but she's worth watching even when fundamentally
miscast. Honestly, she would've been more believable in the Clea
DuVall role, but then we'd lose DuVall in one of her better
to recommend this at all?
Actually, yes. Lyonne and DuVall
make a nice couple; their low-key acting styles mesh well, and
when they start falling for each other their scenes together
become candid, genuine, touching, and eventually erotic. They
seem to be falling in love in a different movie from the one
unfolding so self-consciously farcically around them. Their love
scenes are sensitively done and serious (whereas, again, the
brief gay-male sexuality we see is fumbling and comical); the
rest of the movie is irredeemably cartoonish.
else good to say about it?
Well, any movie with a cameo
by Julie Delpy as a character credited as "Lipstick Lesbian"
can't be all bad. Though it's a close call.