Girl-on-girl action. Combined with two or more B-starlets, those four words are enough to sell tickets to any Hollywood movie. Sex sells, and men view lesbians almost solely as sex objects, so they also assume lesbians must have lots of sex – witness the endless adolescent media fascination that surrounded Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche. It only extends so far, of course. Most people – male or female – have no interest in gay relationships, no matter how chaste or harmless they're portrayed. Some are downright offended if someone gay is on television at all; a couple gay characters in primetime and "gays are taking over TV." After Ellen came out, ABC even put a parental advisory notice at the beginning of her show. Mom and dad, get those kids out of the room, quick – something gay is afoot! Given all of that, I suppose it's not surprising that, rather than show two fairly well-adjusted women in a relationship, the cover and title of Girl Play make it out to be some kind of low-budget softcore porn title.
Actually, it's a comedy. Based on the play Real Girls, it tells (literally, more on that in a bit) the autobiographical story of polar opposite actors-writers Robin Greenspan
and Lacie Harmon falling in love after being cast as lovers in a play. No one's just beginning to recognize their nascent sexuality, here; both women are already lesbians when the film starts. Robin's six-year marriage to Audrey (Katherine Randolph) is slowly cooling down, though, and Lacie would be happier by herself than continuing her relationship with Cass (Lauren Maher). Despite their best efforts to stay apart, the two slowly find themselves inexplicably attracted to each other.
While this sounds like a good setup for a
traditional romantic comedy, Girl Play instead decides to closely adhere to its theatrical roots. The movie is not so much a film as a play that is captured on film, and the play is essentially two essays that are
read aloud. Interspersed between the many,
many scenes of the two leads talking to the camera are depictions of what they're telling you about. Everything is narrated, from their feelings and thoughts to the minutia of entering a door or even breathing. While this may have been essential to the play, in a movie it is, at best, unnecessary. At worst,
it's irritating, like watching a commentary where the director and actors feel the need to tell you the story as you watch it.
It's too bad, too, because there's some genuinely funny material here, the majority of which comes from the other characters in the
film that appear in flashback – they at least get to say their own lines. With more screen time, the hilarious Mink Stole (as Robin's mother) and Dom Deluise (as Gabriel, the play's director) would have stolen the show, but they only exist on the periphery.
Lee Friedlander's ho-hum direction does nothing to help things. Granted, the majority of the movie has Greenspan and Harmon facing the
camera and talking at length, but even disregarding that, it has a very pedestrian look. Nearly every scene dissolves into the next, digital film effects are used, and we are constantly bombarded with montages, most notably at the end when we are subject to a completely unnecessary recap of the film. Every detail is agonized over (often in slow motion) and several shots linger far too long. The movie really drags because of it – with a running time of only 80 minutes (10 of which are credits), it feels like it's 10 minutes too long.
The film is presented in letterboxed widescreen with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There's a moderate
amount of grain throughout the flashbacks; naturally, it's more noticeable in darker scenes. What few outdoor scenes there are are appropriately bright. Overall, it looks above average for an independent feature.
Although there are enough songs to fill a soundtrack, it seems that most of them are included to cover the montage scenes. Since the movie is narrated without background music, I was surprised to see how long the song list was at the end. What music I did notice (the
beginning credits, the end credits, and here and there in between) was good and should appeal to the demographic who will most likely be buying this movie (a demographic, I suspect,
that is not shared by DVD Talk). Voices are clear and audible all through the film, as well.
The sound is presented in Dolby 2.0 stereo, which is more than sufficient. Closed captions are available for the hearing impaired.
A trailer and a 25 minute self-congratulatory documentary (aren't they all?) with interviews with the two leads, the director, and the producers. There are also trailers for Wolfe's other features.
Girl Play fails to adequately take into account the difference between film and theatre, and uninspired direction does nothing to help. There's some good here, but it's mostly to be found in the writing and performances of the secondary characters. It would have been better as a book. Rent it.