Dec 19, 2010

[Movies] Fruit Fly (2009)

Fruit FlyI tend to download a lot of LGBT movies only because they focus on gay content. I know, that's a lousy criteria for searching for new movies to watch and I end up with a large repository of movies that I have yet to get around to seeing. It's so hard to pick one to watch since I have no idea what they're really about beyond what the title implies and whatever I happen to remember from the synopsis that's publicly available out there.

So that makes every venture into my LGBT collection an interesting experience no matter how one looks at things. And LGBT-focused movie are a highly mixed bag of tricks. You have the very good, the very, very bad and all the infinite levels of possibility in-between.

Now for this movie I only knew two things. One was the fact that the lead character was written as a Filipino. The other was the fact that it was generally of LGBT focus given the lead was meant to be a fag hag. And you can't have a fag hag with a healthy number of queers around her at almost all times. Well, I did get all that, but also a heck of a lot more than I expected. Yay for random chance!

H.P. MendozaImage via WikipediaFruit Fly is actually a musical gay movie with a dash of Asian-American concepts and themes thrown in for good measure. I was written and directed by H.P. Mendoza, who also wrote the music.

The movie follows Bethesda (L.A. Renigen), an aspiring performance artist who has moved to San Francisco after a failed attempt to discover the identity of her parents in the Philippines. All she found out there was that her father had already died while the identity of her mother remained a mystery. So now she continues to channel her frustrations into her art and hopes to stage a successful show given her reception back in the Philippines.

At the artists' commune she quickly befriends the openly homosexual Windham (Mike Curtis), who promptly labels her as a fag hag despite her protests. Other residents of the commune include the lesbian couple Sharon (Theresa Navarro) and Karen (E.S. Park) and young runaway artist Jacob (Aaron Zaragosa). So while she struggles to figure out how to arrange a venue for her solo performance, she learns more about her housemates, a little more about herself and potentially clues to the identity of her mother. And of course there's the very significant reality that she is in fact quite the fag hag and she just needs to learn how to accept things.

The fact that this was a musical totally caught me off-guard, but in a good way. After all, I'm quite a sucker for musicals and so that helps me give any movie an above average chance of me liking it. Although I never said this was a good musical, but it was certainly a rather spirited one. Yes, you definitely need to give the folks behind this little project a major A for effort and enthusiasm.

I say this since that the songs lack a bit more, well, originality. And this is not to say the movie sounds like it consists of borrowed music. It's more the fact that almost all the songs sound the same and are sun in the same slightly flat / monotonous drone. The songs are fun though and the lyrics are wonderfully witty and at times playfully risqué.

The story wasn't as aimless as some other LGBT movies I've encountered, but it's still not among the better ones. Bethesda's story is a very simple one with odd interludes of her aunt calling at odd hours via long distance call to little comedic or dramatic purpose. Still, it does move along and thankfully the songs do provide some relevant narrative purpose.

Overall, the movie is nothing amazingly special but it's definitely poignant and fairly entertaining. The songs get pretty catchy over time and you certainly have to give Mendoza credit for coming up with a piece this good despite severe budget limitations.

Fruit Fly is a fun movie for a lazy weekend and probably better seen with generous amounts of alcohol. It gets 3 really bad magic tricks out of a possible 5. For those interested, you can get a copy of the movie on DVD or you can try watching it online via Amazon
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