Showtime's Soldier's Girl, based on a true story, is a dignified look at the brief love affair between an Army private and a pre-op, transgendered nightclub performer and the soldier's subsequent murder. Directed by Frank Pierson and written by Ron Nyswaner, the film centers on the lover story of Pfc. Barry Winchell and Calpernia Addams and avoids sensationalizing it into a tale about strange sex.
The movie opens with Addams (played by male actor Lee Pace) performing at a beauty pageant—also one of the closing scenes—and then relates the events leading up to that night. Pace does an admirable job of portraying Addams, resisting the over-the-top drag queen archetype.
Through Addams' voice-over, we are introduced to Winchell (Troy Garity) as he arrives for his first day with the 101st Airborne division.
Winchell's roommate Justin Fisher (Shawn Hatosy) is the movie's primary antagonist, and the one who brings Winchell and some of the other guys from the unit to the Nashville nightclub where Addams and Winchell meet. And it is the confrontational and mischievous Fisher who spreads rumors about Winchell's possible homosexuality, instigates anti-gay sentiment and eventually manipulates and cajoles the obtuse Calvin Glover (Phillip Eddolls) into "messing up" Winchell.
Along the way, the movie hits briefly on Fisher's psychological problems and hints at his possible latent homosexual tendencies.
goes to great lengths to establish the boy's club atmosphere of the army base and at times the dialogue turns to trite, thinly-veiled sexual innuendo.
The movie also misses its aspirations to be an examination of anti-gay sentiment in the military and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. That's the canvas on which Soldier's Girl
is painted, but the movie only briefly confronts the issue head on. Moreover, the court martial that follows the murder, which had the potential to generate courtroom drama akin to A Few Good Men, is barely covered.
Overall, Soldier's Girl, is a worthy effort, but it fails to dig deep enough into the enormous and controversial issues it tackles. Soldier's Girl premieres May 31 at 9 p.m.