LGBT Movies: Frameline 2021

San Francisco’s Frameline streamed their 45th festival from June 17 through June 27, 2021. It was heavy this year with recurring themes of heartbreak and loss. Here were some highlights.

Artists

No Straight Lines: The Rise of Queer Comics (2021, US). Documentary interviews creators of American LGBT comics from the 1980’s and 90’s. The interviews are repetitive but the art itself is fascinating.

Potato Dreams of America (2021, US). Wes Hurley, a gay Russian filmmaker, recounts his traumatic childhood as a camp fantasy. The story is interesting but the episodic screenplay robs him of agency. This causes the pace to drag. Luckily, he’s assembled a terrific cast including Lea DeLaria as his acerbic grandmother and Jonathan Bennett as Jesus Christ.
(Header image is from Potato Dreams of America).

Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation (2020, US). Jim Parsons and Zach Quinto read the author’s letters in thick dialects. It is distracting until we see archival footage and realize they’re holding back. Both Capote and Williams became self-aware caricatures during interviews. The documentary makes no attempt to move beyond the standard “tortured artist” narrative.

Grief

The Greenhouse (2021, Australia). A woman enters a portal that lets her visit her late mother. Has she gone mad? Or is something sinister going on? The clever screenplay balances family drama with supernatural horror. At times it reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. But the film is ultimately its own special creature. Recommended

Jump, Darling (2020, US). A bitter drag queen cares for his frail grandmother (Cloris Leachman). Leachman was near the end of her life, making it difficult to separate the role from the performer. Grim and unsentimental despite some peppy drag numbers.

Language Lessons (2021, US). Grieving man bonds with his Spanish teacher over video chat. Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales are likeable performers. Still, we’re watching a working-class woman of color perform emotional labor for a wealthy white man. This dynamic eventually changes. But the aimless script and the static Zoom format lost my interest.  

Lola (2019, Belgium). A trans teen and her estranged father take a road trip to scatter her mother’s ashes. Trans actress Mya Bollaers is electric in the lead role. The screenplay empowers her despite all odds. But the father’s abusive behavior will make the film unwatchable for some.  

Summer of 85 (2020, France). I saw this last year but it’s still making the festival rounds. An unstable teen is arrested after the death of his manipulative boyfriend. We flash back to their tragic Mr. Ripley-esque romance. The sour story is hard to watch despite sensitive actors and gorgeous visuals.

Swan Song (2021, US). Udo Kier plays a glamorous hairdresser visiting his home town for a funeral. Kier carries himself with dignity but lacks the energy to drive the film. The sleepy screenplay putters along till the third act. Then some fun supporting characters arrive to shake things up.

Romance

Boy Meets Boy (2021, Germany). A cynic meets a romantic while on vacation. They spend a day making small talk. The men are nice enough but a little basic. The screenplay lacks the heat and urgency of the best films in this subgenre.

Made on the Rooftop (2020, South Korea). Two childish gay men sabotage their relationships. The film thinks they’re hilarious but I found their sitcom antics tiresome. On the plus side the film kept me guessing. I was unsure whether they would end up together or outgrow each other.

Sweetheart (2021, UK). Nell Barlow gives a terrific performance as a grumpy teen clashing with her cheery family. They drag her to a beach side vacation where she falls for a friendly lifeguard. The love interest is underwritten but her normalcy fascinates the angsty heroine. Barlow’s sardonic line readings elevate a familiar coming of age story. My favorite film of the festival. Recommended

The Year in Review

My favorite LGBT media of 2021 thus far.

  • Elite: Short Stories. Ander’s goodbye to a dying friend was devastating. On Netflix.
  • Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Josh Thomas’s terrific dramedy looks at the challenges of queer dating while on the autism spectrum. On Freeform and Hulu.
  • Love, Victor. Season two frees Victor from the Disney censors. His journey remains compelling. The show would benefit from less extraneous subplots. On Hulu.
  • Pride. The FX series profiles American LGBT activists through the decades. Offers a fresh look at some forgotten history. On Hulu.
  • Troye Sivan: Sound Bites. Sivan serves looks in this online concert. He continues to grow as a songwriter and performer. On YouTube.
  • I still need to watch Generation, It’s a Sin and the third season of Pose.  

Media I’ll watch in the coming months:

  • Young Royals. Series follows a closeted prince at a Swedish boarding school. On Netflix July 1.
  • Joe Bell. Mark Wahlberg bonds with his gay son (Maxwell Jenkins). If you’ve researched the true story, you know how it ends. Wide release on July 23.
  • Roswell, New Mexico. Will Michael and Alex reunite? Should they? Season 3 premieres on July 26 on The CW.
  • Jungle Cruise. Jack Whitehall plays Emily Blunt’s gay brother. Will this be a disaster or will he surprise us? Premieres in the U.S. on July 30.
  • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Evan Hansen may bring the subtext but Jamie’s an out and proud teen drag star. This musical comes to Amazon Prime on September 17.
  • Sex Education. I don’t love this show but it features complex queer and ace characters. Season Three drops September 17 on Netflix.
  • Downton Abbey 2. Will Thomas ever find love? In theaters December 22.

This ends my third year of writing for the Avocado. Thank you all for reading and sharing your thoughts! You can find more of my reviews on The Avocado and Letterboxd. My podcast, Rainbow Colored Glasses, can be found here.