Queer films often get ghettoized to a point where if you aren’t actively looking for them, you probably won’t see them in the spotlight, not unlike looking for an original cast recording of Company. You have your once in a while bursts of recognition, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but queer romantic comedies specifically almost never see the light of day outside of either your indie theater, your LGBT film festival, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix, or that unfortunate friend who actively decided to buy Were the World Mine on DVD. But why is it that way, beyond the obvious reasons of heteronormativity in mainstream media? So, I took it upon myself to plop onto my bed with my tub of ice cream, my stone cold bitch face, and my Netflix account to explore all that could technically qualify as a queer romantic comedy on Netflix, coming up with a personal 5 best, and a personal five worst.
Here are the best (click here for the worst):
1. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) | Directed by Jamie Babbit
Perhaps Jamie Babbit’s But I’m a Cheerleader stands out as one of the best known queer romantic comedies, entering into a cult status worthy of a lighter, less gross John Waters who decided to take John Hughes to the prom. Babbit never uses its primary conceit – a young woman is sent to an “ex-gay” camp – as a way to manipulate the audience and instead uses the ridiculousness and absurdity of such camps to engender real humor and reveal genuine pathos in its characters. The film doubly works as a way to allow its protagonist, a spritely Natasha Lyonne, to explore her sexual awakening in a non-cringe worthy way. What often sets back queer movies in general is their tendency to tread the same ground over and over again. Not that coming out or sexual awakening does not have a place within queer cinema, just that the methods of doing it have become stale and have been drained of their uniqueness. But Cheerleader avoids these clichés, its script elevating it from merely campy to superbly sweet. WATCH IT HERE.
2. Another Gay Movie (2006) | Directed by Todd Stephens
Ostensibly, Another Gay Movie plays like an impossibly grosser gay remake of the saucy teen movie standby American Pie. And while the film definitely goes in some very graphic directions (this film is not for the faint of heart), it nails the complexity and awkwardness of gay sex and desire in a satisfyingly amusing way. As one of the characters in Andrew Haigh’s supreme romance Weekend argues, the straight narrative is inherited and fed to us, including how to have sex. So, thus, there’s some unsureness and inherent need to experiment and make terrible mistakes when exploring gay sex simply because that narrative does not really exist within immediate reach. With that in mind, it makes sense that the four leads go to various extremes when trying to lose their virginity (cruising, chat rooms, butt implants, etc.). But, to be sure, Stephens’s brand of comedy is totally tasteless, and I suppose that might be part of the charm. It acts as a kind of middle finger to the other teen films and conventions for denying queer people the visibility we have desired, even in dumb teen comedies about what everyone wants to some extent: sex. WATCH IT HERE.
3. Heartbeats (2010) | Directed by Xavier Dolan
I know a lot of people who hate this film, and it came to me recently that my defense of this film will always be “love is ostentatious”. Dolan’s hyper stylist comedic romance is part Jules and Jim, part Husbands and Wives, part When Harry Met Sally... But, though many use the term as a pejorative, the distinct style and tone of the film benefits exactly what Dolan intends to do: examine love in general and examine love for a specific group of people, one of whom decides to spend an outlandish amount of money on a sweater. Its cinematic love triangle involves Dolan’s Francis and Monia Chokri’s Marie falling, for the Adonis Nicolas, affecting both of their views on infatuation as well as the dynamic the two have with one another. Slow motion shots abound, as Dolan turns his creative eye to being a queer Wong Kar-Wai. Though one could be easily jarred by this remark, Heartbeats glorious complement’s the Hong Kong director’s mediation on desire, In the Mood for Love, using its style as a way to explore the inherent craziness of infatuation itself. Raw, searing, and often very funny, Heartbeats is a gorgeous and outstanding sophomore feature from the Québécois wunderkind. WATCH IT HERE.