1995 Directed by Marita Giovanni. Starring Nancy Allison Wolfe, Liza D'Agostino, Camila Griggs, Michael Harris, Justine Slater, Lisa Parker, Pam Raines, Paula Sorge, Cece Tsou, Chastity Bono.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 12, 1995
Director Marita Giovanni makes her feature film debut with Bar Girls. Lauran Hoffman adapted her original stage play for this film and served as co-producer. The story stems from the lives and loves of the patrons at a lesbian bar in Los Angeles called Girl Bar. This true-to-life story focuses on the mating rituals and daily routines of the women whose lives intersect nightly at the bar. It is filled with humor, revolving love affairs, work, jealousy, and camaraderie. Loretta (Wolfe) is Bar Girls' central character. She co-writes a TV cartoon series titled Heavy Myrtle and pushes for lesbian story lines. (To emphasize her point, she takes a TV executive's troll doll hostage.) One night at the bar, Loretta spies Rachel (D'Agostino) and is instantly smitten. Before long, the two move in together, and not long after that, the jealousy starts. A rookie cop named J.R. (Griggs) and a few ex-lovers also enter the picture. Then, Loretta's best friend, a happy heterosexual, gets a “woman-centered” buzz and pairs up with the most unlikely candidate in the bar. The bar functions much like a stage to which the women continually return, regrouping in ever-changing constellations and match-ups. Jealous fights break out on a regular basis, but the regulars are all “family” and always welcome back. We see the bar go through changes in its quest for new clientele: hat night, wheat grass shots, etc. The plot is almost incidental; what is intriguing about Bar Girls is the stuff that happens in between events. The casual conversations, the structure of the relationships, the quips, the familiarity, and the jokes - these are what capture our attention, and not because of their insight or invention, but because they're so natural and yet invisible in the movies. As a story, Bar Girls leaves too many narrative strands dangling and the performances often seem flat. Stylistically undistinguished, the film compensates by providing a real after-hours hangout.