"But I'm a Cheerleader" is the story of a teenage girl living a suburban 50's family, whose friends and family interpret a few behavioral quirks as evidence that she is a lesbian. They plan an intervention and ship her off to a radical treatment center where gay and lesbian teenagers are forced back onto the "right path" and where attempts are made to "cure" their homosexuality. The film offers an often funny look at the genetic vs. learned homosexuality debate and those who think that it is a problem which may be "cured." A great amount of the film's humor lies in the fact that almost all of the characters appear to match stereotypically "gay" traits to tremendous levels, and the anti-gay tactics seem to render the teenagers "more gay."
The cast of the film all put in enjoyable performances, as Natasha Lyonne from "Everyone Says I Love You" and "American Pie" does a nice job carrying the film as the film's female cheerleading protagonist. She is surrounded by a number of recognizable actresses including Clea DuVall from "Girl Interrupted," and Melanie Lynskey who played Beth in "Detroit Rock City." Also putting in an enjoyable performance sans makeup and wig and with a goatee is RuPaul Charles, who plays one of the "cured" instructors who seems to be more "afflicted" than those he is trying to help. Cathy Moriarty plays the domineering head of True Directions, a homosexuality treatment center described in the film as "Homosexuals Anonymous", and Moriarty puts in an enjoyable performance, coming across as quite the mean bitch, who may have started True Directions out of her own denial. Also in the film, and it is a pleasure to see him working in films again, is Richard Moll, "Bull" from TV's "Night Court."
The film is generally funny and definitely takes a bitingly satiric look at those who see being different as a problem. While the film takes a rather comedic tone, it does not belittle the strength of the relationships presented in the film, portraying them rather frankly and endearingly. Further, while the film certainly employs a number of the stereotypical attributes of a homosexual individual, the film does so to poke fun at them, and indeed the film presents a whole spectrum of people who are gay, while playing off the fact that they are oriented in such a way that suggests that making them straight would not seem a proper fit. Nevertheless, the film is not overly preachy, rather just a light hearted comedy with a definite intention to simply show the absurdity of those who deal with homosexuality by trying to "cure the problem." Along the way, the film offers a lot of laughs from the constant phallic and homoerotic imagery that seem to pop up everywhere at True Directions, and in the actions of those who have previously "cured."
Obviously, with the film's subject matter, this film may not be for everyone, although those who are extremely troubled by notions or images of homosexual relationships might benefit from watching this film. While this film neither sets out to nor succeeds in solving the ills of society's ability or inability to deal with the presence of homosexuality in even the most unlikely of places, (such as a 1950's looking suburban family), it is a fairly entertaining film with its heart in the right place. While it is not a film I would watch over and over, it is definitely worth a rent.
"But I'm a Cheerleader" is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen, with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The film looks good at most times throughout the film, and the bright colors used at True Directions, the treatment center come through well. There are a couple scenes, shot in fairly dark lighting, which seem a bit too dark on the DVD, but there are few other imperfections in the film transfer.
The sound for the film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound audio, however, the rear surround sound speakers are rarely used. The sound is generally good, and at no time needs further adjustment, but this is an extremely- dialogue driven film, and the lack of a greater use of the full surround sound system is of little effect to the overall enjoyment of the film viewing experience.
Sadly, the only bonus material included on the DVD is the Theatrical Trailer. While there is no director's or actor's commentary track, the film does do a good job of speaking for itself with respect to the messages that the filmmaker is trying to convey and the subtle and not-so-subtle imagery which may be found throughout the movie.
While neither a hilarious or compelling film, "But I'm a Cheerleader" offers a lot of laughs and really presents a healthy examination of the way people deal with homosexuality around them and in their own family. It is an issue that hasn't necessarily been raised enough in mainstream films, as homosexual characters are often just stereotype composites played for laughs, thus it is good to see it examined here. Still, for those who aren't looking for a message in their film, it is still an enjoyable comedy and worth watching.