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PRIDE WEEK: Friday Film Review: If These Walls Could Talk...

If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)
Genre: GBLT Social Dramedy
Grade: B

Frankly I put this one in my Netflix queue because after enjoying “Saving Face” I was looking for another lesbian centered movie and this one seemed to have gotten fairly good reviews while many others had been panned. It also features several strong actresses who I knew would probably turn in good performances. The potential downside was that since there are three short vignettes, it might turn out to be like a book anthology with not enough time devoted to each story.

In 1961, Edith (Vanessa Redgrave) loses her longtime companion Abbie (Marian Seldes) and must face the issues of kinship and inheritance. In the 1970s, collegiate Linda (Michelle Williams) falls for butch townie Amy (ChloĆ« Sevigny) then has to choose between her feminist friends or her lover. And in 2000, the house’s inhabitants Kal and Fran (Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone) want to become parents.


The first part is easily the strongest dramatically. Ironically it opens with the two women in a movie theater watching “The Children’s Hour” as later it’s revealed that they are former school teachers. Abbie dies after a freak accident and Edith must then try and conceal their relationship even as she struggles to deal with the legal issues of a couple who have no legal rights of survivorship. Suddenly she has no say as her lover’s laid to rest and no claim to a house in which she’s lived for decades. Elizabeth Perkins and Paul Giamatti play Abbie’s closest relations but it’s obvious they didn’t know her at all while the one person who did can’t claim Abbie for who she truly was. One of the saddest things is watching Edith stage the house before their arrival in order to hide all traces of the relationship. One of the most moving is how as an actress Redgrave has the courage to “ugly weep.” Her face and movements convey volumes of information throughout it all.

In part two, lesbians are now coming out in society and don’t have to hide who and what they are anymore. In fact these women are almost militantly out on the campus of the university they attend. But it seems they only accept lesbians who are like themselves and when their friend begins a tentative relationship with a woman who feels more comfortable dressed in masculine clothes, they’re almost comical in their efforts to control Linda and shun Amy. I guess it’s about lesbians overcoming their own homophobias but it seemed more overwrought and petty to me. However the sexuality is ramped up though it seems gratuitous and the time could have been spent better exploring more from Amy’s POV.

The last part is the funniest and sexiest. Now lesbians are accepted in society to the point that the need for either total concealment or ‘in your face’ outness is pretty much past. The focus is on their personal issues rather than their sexual ones. Having never gone through it, I’m not sure if all the sperm bank issues are realistic though I would think not. I did laugh at the twist of the men who had originally been chosen as donors insisting on parental rights since news stories are full of men who refuse to take any responsibility for their offspring. The scene of Stone boiling the turkey baster while DeGeneris slowly cruised home with the donor sperm all done to the Eurythmics’ song “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” had me cracking up with laughter.

The stories follow the progression of lesbianism in society from 1. not out/discussed and dark in feeling to 2. out and not so dark in feeling as lesbian sexual roles are being explored to 3. totally out and with the freedom to be light and funny. There are obviously Issues being brought up in each segment with Points Being Made but except for short – and unfortunately slightly preachy -speeches in each one, I didn’t feel I was being sledgehammered over the head to makes sure I got it.

I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from these stories but found myself moved – at least by the first and last parts. Redgrave won several awards for this part and I can easily see why. Honestly, except for Amy’s character, the young and silly twits in part two made me want to slap them. But maybe that’s the point – they’re young and still defining themselves as people at that age. Nevertheless were I to watch it again, I would skip this part. DeGeneris tones down her silly for her role which actually made her funnier to me while Stone gets to play giddy which works most of the time. So for the parts I liked B+s and the one I could leave C+.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

11 Comments

  1. Mfred
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 12:24:45

    Funnily enough, while I agree that Amy and Linda’s story is the weakest of the three, memories of it have stayed with me the longest.

    Perhaps because the issues surrounding their story are so complex: the gay movement post-Stonewall, lesbian feminism, the butch/femme dynamic. The vignette doesn’t go as in-depth with these issues as I would hope.

    Also perhaps because Chloe Sevingy is wicked hot, rockin’ that James Dean look on her motorcycle.

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  2. Tasha
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 14:07:37

    I’ve always thought the first two stories were the strongest, with the third story being the weakest. I think perhaps many people feel the second segment is the weakest because it gets into history they don’t know. The turkey baster and artificial insemination are jokes in mainstream society regardless of orientation (I’ve seen it in heterosexual romances as well), and most of American society is aware of the legal prejudices against longtime same-sex couples. But I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people know nothing about the history of lesbian culture, and its subcultures.

    As Mfred mentions above, the collision between lesbian feminism and the butch/femme relationships are complex and fascinating. Also, this segment goes a long way toward reminding viewers that like any other minority, lesbians are not all the same. They have different lifestyles and different beliefs systems. There are radicals and there are conservatives. And yes, lesbians disagree with each other.

    Unfortunately, for every person who got a positive message from that second segment, there’s a person who took away the negative message (isn’t that pathetic that the queers can’t even get along with each other? was not an uncommon reaction among my friends).

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  3. Jayne
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 18:11:49

    @Mfred: I agree that the second part could have been so much more powerful – even I could sense that some point was being made. But, it wasn’t made well enough or explored in enough depth to do it justice.

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  4. Jayne
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 18:15:07

    @Mfred: @Tasha: Can either of you recommend any movies that do a better job showing the differences between and among lesbians?

    ReplyReply

  5. Tasha
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 16:47:15

    @Jayne: I’ve been thinking and thinking, and I can’t come up with any that are realistic in their depictions. I think the best place to look might be documentaries.

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  6. mfred
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 17:07:59

    Tasha, I was thinking the same!

    Before Stonewall is a pretty good documentary, not too long, that both sheds light on the history that If These Walls kinda glosses over, but also touches on the many subcultures in queer life.

    You might also like this Ivan Coyote Performance, “To all the kick ass, beautiful fierce femmes out there”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q7IzwUa_kI

    The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls In Love shows butch/femme relationships, touches on class & race issues, and is also watchable and funny. It’s really more of a coming out movie, tho. Itty Bitty Titty Committee is about a young woman who joins a group of lesbian radical feminists. And is super awesome– funny, sexy, romantic.

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  7. Jill Sorenson
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 18:09:11

    I really enjoyed the first Walls movie but I’d never heard of this one. I think I’ll request it from the library. What I know about lesbian history wouldn’t fill a thimble!

    Thanks Jayne.

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  8. Jayne
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 18:35:20

    @mfred: Thanks for the recs. I’ll queue these up at Netflix.

    ReplyReply

  9. Jayne
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 18:37:44

    @Jill Sorenson: My historical knowledge isn’t much more than yours. Plus I’ve been wondering about the first Walls movie too. I’ll add that to my always overflowing queue as well.

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  10. Tasha
    Jun 25, 2011 @ 19:37:04

    I’ve never seen it myself and don’t know if it’s on DVD, but I’ve been told Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives is good.

    ReplyReply

  11. Liesbeth Wiggers
    Jan 18, 2014 @ 15:19:35

    Amazing and interesting

    ReplyReply

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