A look at lesbian life as seen through three love stories,
new Home Box Office telefilm If These Walls Could Talk 2 is well-performed but,
unfortunately, rather predictable.
A sequel to past HBO offering If These Walls Could Talk,
the film uses essentially the same premise as its predecessor -- three vignettes, over 50
years, set in the same house. It boasts a stellar cast and well-written dialogue, but
unfortunately, it's not too difficult to tell where the writers are going with the
That's particularly the case with "1961,"
which stars Vanessa Redgrave and is produced and directed by Jane Anderson (The Baby
Dance). Redgrave portrays a member of an elderly lesbian couple who becomes widowed
when her partner suffers a seizure while attending to her birdhouse in the backyard, as
she falls from a ladder. It's an outcome that seems to almost be telegraphed from the
moment the climb begins.
The scene then cuts to the emergency room, where
Redgrave's character is unable to get information about her partner's condition
because she isn't a member of the family. Her partner dies in the middle of the
night, and she's not informed -- despite the fact that she spent the night in the
waiting room -- because she's not next-of-kin. Again, no surprises here.
And it turns out that the home where Redgrave's
character and her late partner have lived for the past 30 years is in the partner's
name, despite the fact that they split mortgage payments evenly.
Her closest surviving relative, a nephew (Paul Giamatti, The
Negotiator), and his family then arrive for the funeral, callously rifling through
their joint possessions, talking about putting the house on the market and generally
"not getting it."
Despite everything working out the way you'd expect it
to, however, the principal actors -- Redgrave, Giamatti and Elizabeth Perkins -- smartly
resist the temptation to lapse into melodrama.
The "1972"segment is a bit more
left-of-center and the strongest of the three. Michelle Williams (Dawson's Creek)
is one of a quartet of radical feminist coeds living in the house and fighting for their
rights on a nearby college campus. On a lark, the four visit a local gay bar populated by
"butch" lesbians, whose tendency toward dressing like "establishment"
men upsets the feminist sensitivities of Williams' housemates.
But Williams becomes enamored with a young bar patron
played by Chloë Sevigny (Boys Don't Cry), even though her suit-and-tie attire
makes her the butt of the college crowd's jokes. This is the high point of the movie,
and it shows how even those committed to fighting against discrimination have a hard time
accepting someone who's just a bit different.
But the "2000" vignette -- starring Ellen
DeGeneres and Sharon Stone and directed by Anne Heche -- veers right back to the
predictable. In fact, it's the most clichéd of the lot.
DeGeneres and Stone are an Ikea-perfect lesbian couple
looking for a sperm donor so they can start a family. They first balk at the gay male
couple that wants to donate -- because the men say they want to be in the child's
lives -- then head off to a sperm bank to make a withdrawal.
We see the couple agonize over the donor forms, make love
and look longingly into a playground at all of the little children. But we don't get
the same kind of depth of character from this vignette that we get from the first two.
While the characters in 1961 and 1972are
drama-deep, those portrayed by Stone and DeGeneres are sitcom-shallow. The closing
vignette lacks also lacks the dramatic punch of its predecessors.
If These Walls Could Talk 2 bows Sunday, March 5, on