Wednesday, 16 September 2015
QUEER SCREEN FILM FEST
Kicking-off Tuesday September 22, the annual Queer Screen Film Fest brings a selection of local and international queer feature films and documentaries to Sydney; beginning with opening night film Boulevard, featuring one of Robin Williams' final screen performances, and closing with the highly-anticipated Freeheld (pictured above), fresh from its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. You can check out the program for yourself on the Queer Screen website (http://queerscreen.org.au/) but here are previews of three of the films screening at the Fest.
Ostensibly this Aussie drama/thriller seems like an odd choice for a queer film festival but without giving too much away, this tale of a young ex-con determined to go straight does have a queer bent. Out of prison and prepared to turn his life around, Merv (Alex Russell) is about to marry Paula (Jessica de Gouw) when an old acquaintance from his criminal past makes a surprise visit. That's Pommie (Sullivan Stapleton), just out of prison and ready to collect on the promises made by Merv when behind bars. Stapleton exudes both menace and sexual magnetism (the 1970s wardrobe somehow amplifying the effect) as he ingratiates himself into Merv's new life, but you just know things can't end well. Directed by Tony Ayres (TV's The Slap), Cut Snake is a tense, often violent film which revolves around Sullivan's towering performance.
Cut Snake screens at the Queer Screen Film Fest on September 23, and receives a limited national release from September 24.
Lily Tomlin is in near-perfect form as the cantankerous titular character in Paul Weitz's dramedy. A poet-cum-academic still mourning the loss of her partner of 38 years, we meet Elle Reid (Tomlin) in the process of breaking up with her younger lover of four months, Olivia (Judy Greer). And the day is only going to get more emotional from there: Elle's teenage granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner), shows up on her doorstep in need of help. $600 for an abortion to be precise. And grandma, the liberal feminist and pragmatist that she is, is prepared to help, but having cut up her credit cards as a statement against, well, something or other, the two have to go in search of the funds; Sage's mother (a terse Marcia Gay Harden) not being an option. Of course the star of the film is Tomlin (already earning Oscar buzz), who gets to play the grumpy old woman to great effect, throwing off witty asides and pearls of wisdom with equal measure. But there's an emotional depth beneath the curmudgeonly veneer, which Tomlin seems more interested in mining than does Weitz's screenplay.
Grandma screens at the Queer Screen Film Fest on September 24. It will receive a home entertainment release in 2016.
Based on a true story, and inspired by the 2007 documentary of the same name, Freeheld is a timely story about equality for the LGBTQI community. When, in 2003, police detective Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) is diagnosed with Stage-4 cancer, she requests that her police pension be left to her partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page, one of the film's producers). And although the New Jersey state had allowed for same-sex partners of civil unions to receive their partner's pensions, the Freeholders (a group of five middle class, heterosexual white men) decide against granting Laurel's request. So ensues a campaign, led by Laurel's police partner, Dane Wells (Michael Shannon, best-in-show), and amplified by political activist, Steven Goldstein (Steve Carell), for justice. For all its good intentions and prescience, not to mention its top-notch cast, Freeheld is a rather awkwardly produced film; more telemovie than cinematic, perhaps because of budget constraints. Still, it packs an emotional punch.
Freeheld screens at the Queer Screen Film Fest on September 27, and opens nationally November 5.