Where I Watched it: Amazon
Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By: Marcia Bartenetti
So, I posted my YouTube review of this before writing my review, and within two views I had already attracted someone whose sol purpose was to drop into the comments with some transphobic nonsense. Two. I had two views at the time, and the video had only been up for about 3 hours.
So here I am, ready to write a review for a film I liked, not because I adore everything LGBT or Trans, but because the film itself is charming. Is it perfect? No. But, I can see why people would enjoy it, regardless of what their reason was for watching. It’s true, that for his first film, Billy Porter bafflingly chose this. It’s not that the film is bad, it’s just that sometimes people feel passionate, like they have a story to tell. especially when actors turn in their feature debut. They want to be remembered as capable, and that their voice behind the camera is just as unique as their voice in front.
It’s why Maggie Gyllenhaal chose some difficult subject matter in The lost Daughter, or Rebecca Hall with passing, or any number of actor turned directors. I’m not sure what billy Porter wanted here, but I was expecting something less accessible and more artistic.
truth is, Billy Porter just showed that he could direct a teen comedy. he basically just did what Amy Poehler did with moxie. It’s not a stretch, and I assume it’s not even that hard. Teen comedies have a really tight formula to follow, and I was pleasantly surprised that at no point in this film did anyone need to attend a school dance. That alone made it feel subversive, even without the trans lead actress. Simply not having your characters either prepping for a school dance, trying to lose their virginity, playing sports, or participating in a raging kegger while the parents are out of town really seemed like original choices for a teen comedy, and I think that’s how Billy Porter chose to make his teen comedy different.
Instead of just slapping a label on this and making the difference focused only on the main actress being trans, and this centered on a relationship between her and her straight cisgender boyfriend, it made a lot of smaller choices that teen films usually don’t make. Case in point, to other teen films this year. The LGBT romcom Crush couldn’t help but focus on sports, while Rebel Wilson returned to high school so she could become Prom Queen.
Kelsa, the lead of our film, isn’t concerned with any of that. She wants to be authentic, and just seen as a girl. She dreams of a day when she can move away to a new place for a fresh start. Her boyfriend, Khalit, never plays the role any other way than a guy with a crush. He’s not gay, and the film doesn’t play into any stereotype.
Now, i did say it wasn’t perfect. The parents here are insufferable. Kelsa’s mom seems fine at first, but when given more to do, all her scenes become cringeworthy. Meanwhile, Khalit’s parents are so poorly written that if you never saw them, the film wouldn’t change at all. And, last but not least, in the most obnoxious choice… Khalit. Fuck that name.
Fuck that name not because people can’t be named that, but because the film uses his name as a running joke that no one ever bothers to learn how to say his name correctly. Not even his own girlfriend. Even fucking Kelsa struggles with it. He even admits that his best friend got it wrong so often, he just let him call him something else, so he changed his name because no one could pronounce it. Now, everything is intentional, and I feel like this is a way of saying to parents, stop giving your kids dumb names because this is what they go through. But the other side of the story is, there are kids out there with names like this, and their name isn’t a running joke. Their name isn’t a punchline.
If it was one scene, one joke, I wouldn’t have cared. But it is persistent.
The Blind Perspective: It’s a teen comedy. i always appreciate live human audio description from Amazon, but this was a fairly easy film to describe. If I’m being honest.
Final thoughts: Please, don’t make me delete your anti trans rhetoric. I review films. This is a review of a film where the lead is transgender. This is how I felt about the film. This is not meant to light a match and start a political revolution, but rather, just tell you whether or not (if you’re interested in this film at all) if it is worth the time. I think it is.
Final Grade: A-