Movie Review By Moira Sullivan
Jamie Babbit's But I'm a Cheerleader won the public prize for best film in Paris at the Creteil International Women's Film Festival this March. Her film which will be opening in the US this week concerns a homosexual rehabilitation camp called 'True Directions'. Babbit emphasized when I met her in Paris that camps like 'True Directions' actually originated in the San Francisco area. The camp, no pun intended, is run by none other than Mary Brown, brilliantly acted by Cathy Moriarity. Ru Paul , in a rare appearance as a man plays Mike, a camp counselor. Babbit said that Ru Paul has expressed an interest in doing serious acting roles in film and she contacted him through his agent.
The plot concerns seemingly straight cheerleader Megan played by Natasha Lyonne, subject of an intervention by family and friends who farm her off to this freaky setup. Megan resists being de-homosexualized because to begin with she is unaware of even being gay. At camp however she meets Graham played by Clea Duvall and despite being a 'cheerleader' goes to any lengths to defend her freedom of choice.
The film was appreciated in Paris although Babbit was actually caught off guard by winning, claiming she didn't realize the French had a sense of humor, revealing a bit of sterotyping of her own. She then apolozied for taking money for the French government, which was actually the municipality of Creteil that has sponsored the festival for several years. But what the heck, it was probably her first trip to Paris and all those years of building up stereotypes of the French were bound to surface.
But I'm a Cheerleader may seem too elementary to a sophisticated crowd. The stereotypes are often absurd to anyone with a consciousness, and frightingly may seem real to the uninformed. But in truth the film does no harm and in a humorous way pokes fun at how hung up we are about being gay. It runs into a few problems as well for portraying 'True Directions' as a place where sex roles create homosexuality and that by simply reversing them everything comes out allright in the wash.
Babbit has been claimed to have a style like John Water's gender benders. However she is less effective primarily because of her pristine compulsion to use symbolic props and color to paint forced heterosexual roles. However its still fun to intereact with the hot pinks, royal blues and fusias that carry this film forward. Babbit's early short Sleeping Beauty concerns a woman who applies makeup to a dead pop star in a music video. On the shoot she falls in love with a female technician on the set.
Babbit with her colorful themes is definitely a diva within gay film to be noticed.
This is Moira Sullivan from Movie Magazine, Paris.
© 2001 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 4/00
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