Jan 31, 2009

[Movies] Puccini for Beginners (2006)

Puccini for Beginners (2006)A popular adage goes that you shouldn't judge books by their covers and by the same vein you probably shouldn't just movies by their posters. Unfortunately, I have to admit that when my partner and I go DVD-hunting, we sometimes fall prey to that kind of a shopping strategy.

Being the queer film enthusiasts that we are, there's nothing that hooks us in better than one of those independent film festival logos on the DVD jacket. It's resulted in a number of surprising finds amongst the DVD racks and of course a fair number of disappointments.

This was definitely one of the former rather than the latter.

Puccini for Beginners was a surprisingly well-written film that we picked up on the fly. Given the volume of DVDs we were sorting through at the time, I just saw the logos as my partner showed me the cover, took a glance at the synopsis (inaccurately captured by the pirate who burned the copy of course) and then gave the nod to add it to the pile of movies we were buying. It sat amongst our collection of movies for some times (more than at least a year if I'm not mistaken), until my partner popped it into the player one lazy day after work.

The film turned out to be a GLBT movie of the lesbian variety, which is not a bad thing at all. Given how witty the dialog and writing turned out to be, the first movie that first came to mind was Imagine Me & You, which is one of my favorite movies. There was definitely that strong attempt at humor and making sure things were relatively light while not getting too shallow or campy. The gay aspect to things wasn't so blatant and in-your-face, so to speak. It was just there, rather matter-of-factly, which was a great thing. Some pink films just get too full of themselves as if there's nothing else to cover beyond the characters being gay.

The movie follows the complicated social life of Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser), who shortly after breaking up with her girlfriend Samantha (Julianne Nicholson) finds herself being attracted to a straight man, Philip (Justin Kirk). Justin had also recently broken up with his girlfriend and eventually he and Allegra hook up and start sleeping together despite her being a lesbian. At the same time, she eventually meets Grace (Gretchen Mol), who had just left her boyfriend and eventually experiments with lesbianism with Allegra.

You do see where this is going, right?

The concept behind the film was rather refreshing and certainly amusing for a romantic comedy. Executive left a little to be desired, but I suppose it could have been worse. It did have that independent film quality to it, but not the cheesy backroom kind of movie - it did have some production value after all.

It ended rather abruptly and I feel a tad disappointed that's the way things went. It certainly had a lot of potential, which is the case for many films, but then it fell a bit short of the mark as thing wrapped up. There was a rather hurried sense to things, as if the makers didn't quite know how to end things and so they just yanked at the threads and hoped that things would unravel in a way that made sense.

It's still worth the time of day watching if you have a lazy weekend free. I wouldn't pay to see it in a theater but given how tricky it is to catch these kinds of films on TV, you'll probably need to buy a copy or find somewhere to rent it. Man, why doesn't this country have Netflix? But that's another topic entirely.

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