Not every year can be like the relatively recent ones that brought us LGBT-related films of stature like Milk and The Kids Are All Right. In fact, in some years, it seems like the only gay representation we have at the cineplex is the fleeting sight of a sexless twink best friend character of the second lead in a ‘tween girl rom com that bombs on arrival. But this year is different. Judging by the films that are going to be trotted out, it promises to be diverse, potent, and gayer than a plate of Thai beef salad in Hell’s Kitchen on a Saturday night.
First of all, Todd Haynes’ Carol — based on the Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt — just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and had the critics going, “Oh la la.” Set in the 1950s of Hayne’s Far From Heaven, it has department store clerk Rooney Mara, who’s full of frustrations and dreams, falling for the older Cate Blanchett, with results that are hormonally charged and full of uncertainty. The young woman is not sure what to do with her feelings, while the Blanchett character is going through a divorce and once had an affair with her female best friend, so she’s open, but let’s say a bit complicated. The result was described by observers as a lavish, dreamily romantic, and beautifully acted arthouse film, a tale of furtive glances and touches, especially by Mara’s timid character as she brushes against the bold Carol (whose estranged husband is documenting her every Sapphic move for a child custody battle). Mining taboo feelings in a more repressed era, Carol sounds like just the kind of voyeuristic romp that serious filmgoers are going to want to gawk at en masse. And Mara was named Best Actress at the French film fest, so let the games begin.
Another tale of reality battling repression comes out in July when the late Robin Williams stars in Boulevard, about a married man who finally comes to terms with his gay sexuality as he spends some questioning time with a young hustler and reevaluates his choices. Unsurprisingly, James Franco has another gay movie coming out — I Am Michael, in which the queer-fascinated Renaissance man plays a real-life gay magazine editor who went through a crisis and became a born-again pastor with a lady love. He’s sort of an ex-gay with an ex-boyfriend (played by Zach Quinto), and again, this reeks of “must see,” especially since some early reviews singled out Franco’s understated performance.
And the “T” in LGBT won’t go unnoticed, either. Fresh off his Oscar, Eddie Redmayne is starring the Tom Hooper-directed The Danish Girl, the real-life story of Einar Wegener, who transitioned to Lili Elbe, the recipient of the first male to female sex reassignment surgery, in 1930. Einar starts becoming fascinated with womanhood when his artist wife asks him to stand in for a female model who didn’t show up. He does well with that assignment and starts identifying as a woman in ways that threaten to change everything while potentially unhinging the marriage. The resulting drama sounds like a trip into liberation, the opposite of the Franco film’s trajectory. It could easily give Redmayne a shot at a second trophy—and yes, it would be for the Best Actor category.
We already have a second Yves St. Laurent movie, probing the famed designer’s taste for couture and hedonism. And in the works are documentaries about a weekly lesbian night that lit up New York’s Café Tabac restaurant, as well as one about the Paradise Garage, the shrine-like disco that drew gay people of color in droves for worshipful nights of free-form escape from 1977-‘87.
But probably the most promising film about gayness and music is The Fifth Beatle, an adaptation of Vivek J. Tiwary’s graphic novel about the life of the Beatles’ extremely complex manager, Brian Epstein. Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment is coproducing the film about Epstein, who discovered the 1960s rock band the Beatles in a Liverpool cellar and brought them into the international arena with a history-making flourish. A press release for the movie mentioned the “demons” that plagued Epstein, even as he helped change the culture for all time. Let’s hope his gayness isn’t presented as one of those, though the way he grappled with it could provide some fascinating dramatic conflict. At the time, Epstein was only openly gay to a point and indulged in a lot of clandestine hookups that were prevalent in a UK of severe oppression and secrecy. But he also had pride and bravado (and the support of the Beatles) and lived life with a certain brio, before sadly dying of an overdose at 32. It sounds like this movie might not be ready until next year, which means we miraculously get two years in a row of gay film stuff worth paying for. After all, it’s hard to imagine even Simon Cowell could fuck this one up, lol.
Megan Hilty at Cafe Carlyle | Photography by Michael Wilhoite
LIVING LIFE TO THE HILTY
From the fifth Beatle, we move on to the third Glinda. After being a replacement for that part in Broadway’s Wicked, followed by the Dolly Parton role of Doralee in 9 to 5, Megan Hilty reached a moderately sized but avid TV following in Smash, the two-season NBC show about the making of a Broadway musical. Hilty was Ivy, the Broadway hopeful angling to play Marilyn Monroe in the show-within-a-show Bombshell, and outside the series, the actress took on another Marilyn role by starring in a well received Encores! production of Gentleman Prefer Blondes. Add a significant part on Sean Saves The World (2013-14) and an act at the Café Carlyle last year when she was pregnant, and we’ve got the complete back story on this luscious blonde talent with an old-time belt and an affable personality.
Well, I just caught her back at the Carlyle—not pregnant—and she was delightful, lending her wonderful voice to standards (“Come Rain or Come Shine,” “This Can’t Be Love”), which she gave a full throttle passion to, as well as delicately performing more gentle ballads (“Be A Man,” “Ballad of the Sad Young Men”), and even some songs from Smash, for the cultists out there. “It was a dream job,” gushed Hilty about that show, “and it introduced people to musical theater.” (But she neglected to mention that one episode had Ivy’s world rocked by a blind item I allegedly wrote—seriously!) Anyway, this is the kind of performer who’s obviously here for the long haul, and if Disney doesn’t scoop her up to sing songs in their next animated smash, they’re nuts.
Meanwhile, at 54 Below, I caught up with Roslyn Kind, who was lovable, funny, and dazzling, blessed with the pipes of death and a hot way of using them. Her sister is someone named Barbra, but after seeing Roz perform, you think, “Oh, Barbra is the one who’s Roslyn’s sister, right?”
DRAG ON THE HIGH SEAS
And here’s the best entertainment news of all. Wigstock is returning! The long-running outdoor drag festival — which rocked NYC from the ‘80s to the aughts, starting in Tompkins Square Park — is partnering with SeaTea for a giant, high heeled boat ride on a huge yacht named the Hybrid, on August 16. Host Lady Bunny and co-organizer Scott Lifshutz are pulling out all the stops for this wild and wacky tour that will surpass Gilligan’s in all its giddy glitz and glory. Imagine all those drama queens on Dramamine?