When June rolls around, so comes Pride, which is a massive celebration of the LGBT community and the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City. Being a Lesbian I try to fill this month by viewing loads of films that are Lesbian-centric. The issue I constantly end up finding myself in though, is that most Lesbian films are depressing. The couple either doesn’t come out the other side together, or something tragic ends up happening. It’s hard to find films that don’t make you want to grab your Lesbian Grief Shawl, your cat, and go hide someplace to ugly cry. There is hope, though! As you can guess, the list you are about to explore are five films that both have women loving women and more importantly, will leave you smiling and in a positive place.
5. I Can’t Think Straight (2008)
I’m usually very picky when it comes to what movies I decide to sit through. If the writing is poor or the acting is over the top then I’m quick to stop watching and move on to something else. I Can’t Think Straight was recommended to me by a few people, and I was very hesitant. As I normally do, I checked out the trailer beforehand and found myself being drawn to it. In the end, I Can’t Think Straight went far and above the expectations I had for it and left me feeling moved.
In the film, Tala (Lisa Ray) is a Christian Palestinian who is in London preparing for her big wedding day. Up till now, she’s had a nasty habit of canceling her ceremony just before it hits. Leyla (Sheetal Sheth) is a British Indian Muslim whose bad habit is to constantly break up with the man she’s currently involved with. Leyla’s mother is desperately trying to find a good man to settle down with and start a family, but Leyla doesn’t want any of that. The two meet when Leyla’s current boyfriend and Tala’s best friend, Ali (Rez Kempton) invites Leyla to attend dinner with Tala and himself.
Since I Can’t Think Straight is your typical romantic comedy, the rules state that a meet-cute must happen. The “meet-cute” is the pivotal spot where the two love interests meet and sometimes don’t get along. This is the case for Tala and Leyla whose cultural backgrounds cause their beliefs to clash. As someone who lives in the heart of “Western Culture” I haven’t really seen the battle of beliefs between Palestinians who are Arab to those who are Muslim. Like Leyla does in the film, I was quick to think that most Palestinians are Muslim. To be able to take those assumptions and squish them by creating stories that explore these subjects is an aspect of cinema I’ve always admired.
It’s really not an LGBT film unless there is some sort of “coming out” scene. Usually, I am over them and would love for the genre to explore after that, but as this list proves, sometimes that pivotal moment is done so right that you can’t get past it being done repeatedly. Tala teaches Leyla to be more at ease with herself, which allows Leyla the courage to come out to her family. Meanwhile, Tala still holds tight to the fear of life in Jordan, where being LGBT can end with a death sentence. Leyla returns the favor in encouraging her to be true to herself since Tala finds herself more in London than in Jordan. Unlike a similar situation in this past year’s The Happiest Season Leyla never once gives Tala an ultimatum causing her to forcefully come out. Instead, she allows her the time she needs to find her own courage.
Sure, I Can’t Think Straight may cover some heavy topics, but that’s what makes for the film to have such a big heart. Within all the drama these stories create are characters that make you fall in love with them even though some have very little screen time. Leyla’s sister, Yasmin (Amber Rose Revah), is completely supportive and a bit of a cupid in reintroducing Leyla and Tala after the two went their separate ways. My favorite minor character is the Tala family’s housekeeper, Rani (Nina Wadia) whose entire goal within the film is to get Tala’s mother to drink a beverage she’s prepared with the extra ingredient of her saliva. You can’t help but root for her to achieve her goal, and those little comedic breaks allow for us to take a breath and regather ourselves.
I Can’t Think Straight really doesn’t make you stop grinning from ear to ear. What else could you possibly expect from a film that closes out with Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed A Girl”? a pivotal song that is way happier than Katy Perry’s 2008 hit.
I Can’t Think Straight is available on Amazon Prime.
4. D.E.B.S. (2004)
The first time I watched D.E.B.S. was while I was working at this laundry where my manager would buy random movies and put them on while we folded clothes. Neither of us were expecting it to be a Lesbian love story. We both just assumed it was going to be some fun, campy spy movie on the level of Spy Kids. Even with the shock of the film’s actual story, it delivered on its promise to be campy and extremely fun.
D.E.B.S. is the feature-length version of Angela Robinson’s short film by the same name about “Perfect Score”, a title given for receiving a perfect score on the hidden spy examen within the SAT’s, Amy (Sara Foster) realizing she doesn’t want the spy life after she falls for supervillain Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster).
It’s enjoyable how much the film doesn’t dwell on the fact that it’s a Lesbian love story being played out. There’s maybe one or two mentions of “Wait, she likes girls?”. They are more concerned with the fact that Lucy Diamond is the ultimate supervillain who would threaten to destroy Australia just because her heart is broken. When Amy has to break things off with her, after having the best seven days of her life, it’s not because their relationship would look bad for sexual reasons, but because Lucy is the ultimate villain.
I think one of the things I love most about D.E.B.S. is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It knows it wants to be fun, and throws itself into its quirkiness. Lucy and her henchmen find themselves breaking into a lip-sync rendition of Erasure’s “A Little Respect” while she puts forth a plan to win Amy back by becoming “good” and returning the items she’s stolen over the years.
You’ll also find that a huge highlight to many of these films is their supporting casts. These characters really make the main characters shine brighter when done right. D.E.B.S. makes their’s feel like caricatures you would see in Charlie’s Angels, Totally Spies, even James Bond, but they never feel too over the top to the point of annoyance. The head of their school is played by the fantastic Holland Taylor and your “Bosley” type character is Michael Clarke Duncan. Now, that’s epic. Amy’s fellow D.E.B.S. each represents a major character trait that one sees when watching anything in the spy genre. Dominique (Devon Aoki) has the libido of James Bond, Max (Meagan Good) is as serious as one would find Sydney Bristow, and Janet (Jill Ritchie) has the same level of loyalty as Dylan Sanders.
If you love spy parodies, and just want a film to sit back and enjoy with some popcorn D.E.B.S. is really the right choice to put on because there is never a dull moment and it will leave you bouncing around with joy in the end.
D.E.B.S. is currently streaming on Tubi.
3. Girltrash: All Night Long (2014)
This list really wouldn’t be complete without featuring at least one musical. I could have gone to the basics and recommended The Prom but I feel Girltrash: All Night Long doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Angela Robinson, the one also behind D.E.B.S., a writer/director/producer of The L Word, and the writer/director of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women also wrote and directed this. Those who grew up in the early 2000s and watched Noggin religiously will appreciate how it reunites South of Nowhere’s Gabrielle Christian and Mandy Musgrave get to play love interests once again.
Girltrash: All Night Long follows Daisy (Lisa Rieffel) and Tyler (Michelle Lombardo) as they prepare for their band’s big performance at the Battle of the Bands. Besides the stress of making sure they get to their venue on time, Daisy has to deal with her little sister Colby (Gabrielle Christian) recently coming out and needing help with winning the heart of her crush Misty (Mandy Musgrave). She also has to help Tyler come up with the money she owes the recently paroled Monique (Rose Rollins).
The really fun thing with this musical is that there is never a dull moment, whether it’s Daisy singing about her ex, Xan (Clementine Ford) still having feelings for her, or the group attempting to sell drugs to Colby’s sorority sisters in order to get Monique’s money. It feels as though you are on this crazy ride through Los Angeles with these women.
Girltrash manages to make you so invested in Colby winning over Misty that you totally forget that the entire film only takes place over the course of a few hours. In order to build its characters, the music is often used as a way of saying more in a short period of time. “Fantasy Crush” is a cute moment shared between Colby and Misty where each describes to the other who their crush is. The song allows us a look into who these two people are and to see how perfect they actually are for one another.
The music, which was written for the film by Killola (whose lead singer is Lisa Rieffel), is really relatable. How many times have you felt stuck in the same routine? “Traffic” explores this feeling while you also realize that you are singing along with it. The film’s opening number “Finally” is a smash that sets the energy for what is to come for the remainder of the film. By the time the film’s end, you find yourself jamming along and wanting to just go and experience the whole thing.
Girltrash: All Night Long is streaming on Tubi.
2. Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006)
When I fell down the Laura Fraser rabbit hole after Breaking Bad (she’s the one who had an unhealthy relationship with bringing her own Stevia everywhere) this was one of the first projects I came across. It quickly became one of my top recommendations when someone was looking for a feel-good movie to watch. I must warn you though, this film involves a cooking competition which means there’s loads of food being shown all over making it hard to watch on an empty stomach.
Nina’s Heavenly Delights revolves around Nina (Shelley Conn from the British version of Mistresses), a Scottish Indian woman who returns to Glasgow after her father passes away. On returning she learns that he has collected a lot of gambling debt and was forced to sell the ownership to his restaurant, The New Taj. Before she lets its new owner, Lisa (Laura Fraser) sell to the first person who comes along, Nina wants to achieve her father’s last wish, winning “The Best of the West Curry Competition” for the third year. She gets sidetracked though when she begins to develop feelings for Lisa.
I’m already a fan of Bollywood films. I love their music, the colors and the magic they bring when you watch them. I got the same experience watching this film. The slightly over-the-top acting from some of its cast doesn’t feel forced but instead feels as if it belongs. When Nina fantasizes about being closer to Lisa it’s done so in pinks and purples which are often used in Bollywood films to symbolize lust. Nina’s friend Bobbi (Ronny Jhutti) tries to be spotted for a chance to be part of the next Bollywood film. In order to do so, his troupe must perform allowing Nina’s Heavenly Delights to have its very own dance number. The film even closes out with a full-scale Bollywood dance number with everyone in extravagant costumes.
Nina is so dead set in achieving her father’s wish that watching her feelings develop for Lisa doesn’t overpower that goal. Instead, I feel as though it just adds that special ingredient and pushes the notion that even though you have all the correct things thrown together, if you don’t have the chemistry that binds them, the rest is pointless. Their relationship is what I feel drives this film from being simply about a food competition where one can grow hungry watching to a magical fairy tale that has you rooting and cheering when they get to have their “happy ever after”.
Nina’s Heavenly Delights can be rented from Amazon Prime.
1. Imagine Me and You (2005)
I really wouldn’t be able to do this list without this film. It’s the ultimate in feel-good Lesbian films and has set the bar really hard for others to hit. If you were to ask the Lesbian community what films they would recommend this would most likely appear on most of their lists. It was pivotal to my viewing experience when I was questioning my sexuality and has since become a comfort film that I often find myself quoting and rewatching countless times.
In Imagine Me and You Piper Perabo plays Rachel, a woman who has recently married her best friend, Heck (Matthew Goode), but has begun to find herself falling for Luce (Lena Headey), the florist who catered her wedding. Rachel strikes up a friendship with her but her feelings begin to get in the way and the last thing Luce wants to do is pull apart a marriage.
There are so many moments between Rachel and Luce where the chemistry is overflowing and you can’t help but gleam with watching them. Whether it’s the infamous “You’re a Wanker number 9!” scene where Luce is teaching Rachel how to properly project at a football match (soccer for you American readers), the DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) sequence set to Kelly Marie’s “Feels Like I’m In Love”, or their “goodbye” after a close call with Heck leaves Luce to decide that she can’t be the one to be the homewrecker. There are only a few movies where the chemistry is so strong between actors that their performances feel real and end up jumping out at you stronger than ever.
Besides the fantastic chemistry between Piper Perabo and Lena Headey, there are little moments sprinkled throughout where we are able to pause and take a moment to deeply feel what is happening to these people. When Rachel draws up the courage to tell Heck that she has fallen for someone else, but has chosen him, he is shown to have fallen asleep unbeknownst to her. When she discovers that he has and that she would have to find this courage again to do this all over her heart breaks. What causes it to hit deeper is the lingering shot on Heck as he opens his eyes having heard the entire speech. There’s another scene where Rachel’s kid sister H (Boo Jackson), shortened from Henrietta, comforts Heck after everyone has left with Rachel. He struggles on if he did the right thing in letting Rachel go instead of playing happy, and H gives him the advice she’s gotten from her teacher about how there is “no problem unsolvable given a big enough plastic bag.”
I can go on and on about this film and how it was the film that made Lesbians believe they would have to get involved with plants to find their forever partner—trope that The Haunting of Bly Manor has recently revisited. How the balance between lightheartedness and seriousness draws us into not only the love story but the problems befalling everyone else. Honestly, this is a film you need to experience yourself in order to really understand its power and why people treasure it. If nothing else, Anthony Stewart Head is in the film being very anti-Giles and Repo: The Genetic Opera-guy, but still gets to shine and steal every scene he’s in because he’s Anthony Stewart Head.
Imagine Me and You can be rented on Amazon Prime.
In actuality, all these films need to be experienced firsthand in order to fully appreciate the joys that comes from watching them. The feeling of euphoria overwhelms you as you hit the end credits of a Lesbian film where no one has died or has been left in a terrible state. As of late, most have been full of melancholy. When a film, especially a film produced by a mainstream company, says that it is a story featuring Lesbians we have to go in preparing ourselves to become invested and then heartbroken. Then there are the others that may be lighthearted but are usually so overacted and poorly written that they feel like a chore just to get through. I hope this list proves helpful when wanting to celebrate Pride month with some positivity and fun.