Sunday, September 30, 2012

Great Walls:"If These Walls Could Talk 2" (2000)

This made for HBO film traces the lives of three lesbian couples who all manage to stay in the same house over the years, unbeknownst to each other.

The first film takes place in 1961 and was directed by Jane Anderson. Abby (Marian Seldes) and Edith (Vanessa Redgrave) are two retired school teachers who lead a quiet life in the house. Abby has a stroke after falling from a ladder, and dies, and her nephew (Paul Giamatti) and his wife (Elizabeth Perkins) come for the funeral and to sort and sell Abby's things, unaware that she and Edith were a lifelong couple. The video starts with a heartbreaking story, made so much more effective by the great work of Redgrave, Seldes, Giamatti, and Perkins. Edith kind of bonds with the nephew's daughter, but Redgrave's expressions as her partner's distant family begins horning in on the home and its possessions is tragic. Many memorable scenes here, especially Edith's need to create a new bedroom for herself, in case anyone would figure out that she and Abby shared a bed.

The second film is set in the same house in 1972, and is directed by Martha Coolidge. The screenplay contains a most clever plot, one that I have no seen before. Young lesbian Linda (Michelle Williams) is a college feminist living in the house with three other lesbians. They have been kicked out of their university feminism group, and go to a local lesbian bar. There, Linda is drawn to Amy (Chloe Sevigny), a very butch lesbian who wears a men's clothing and drives a motorcycle. Soon gender identities are being questioned- how can a feminist fall for a lesbian who acts like and dresses like a man? Williams and Sevigny have a wonderful chemistry together, and the film makers do not gloss over the strain the relationship puts on the other girls in the house. The story is told well, taking the side of the new couple, but not condemning the others for being uncomfortable with the situation.

The final story takes place in 2000, and is directed by Anne Heche. The story is pretty simple, as long term couple Fran (Sharon Stone) and Kal (Ellen DeGeneres) want to be pregnant, and their horror of shopping for sperm on the internet. The third story is played for laughs, and gets a few, too, thanks to DeGeneres. The film is nicely directed by DeGeneres' then partner Heche, who does a very good job with the slightest of the three screenplays. Stone has always made me laugh in her comedic roles, from "Antz" to "The Muse," and her willingness to shed her inhibitions in this strong role really says something about her character (both in the film and real life). The two leads and Heche's direction carry it, although the material is lacking.

I like the concept of these stories taking place in the same house, I wish there was more of a connection between them. While that might be seen as borrowing from "The Hours" a little too much, how much do you know about the previous occupants of wherever you live right now, aside from the unforwarded mail, this is a movie.

"If These Walls Could Talk 2" is a very strong film altogether, and proves that HBO is often doing more interesting things cinematically than even independent film companies. Keep up the good work! (* * * *) out of five stars.