Not rated, 110 min. Directed by Sharon Pollack. Starring Ellen Mclaughlin, Olivia Negron, Stacey Nelkin, Monica Bell, Andrea Weber, Gabriella Messina, Carol Schneider, Malindi Fickle.
As the much-awaited, closing-night film of this year's Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival, Everything Relative played to an appreciative and warm audience. Writer-director-producer Sharon Pollack introduced her first feature with a few statements that demonstrated how intensely personal the film was for her. Everything Relative is dedicated to the memory of one of Pollack's close college friends, a friend who is referred to in the film and whose death haunts a number of the characters. At times personal connections add depth and meaning to a film, but in this case the film groans under the weight of such expectation. While Everything Relative makes good use of an ensemble cast and offers a novel approach to a formulaic concept, its overall effect seems somewhat stilted. Organized around seven college friends who reunite for the bris of Victoria (Bell) and Katie's (Nelkin) son, Everything Relative has all the makings of those reunion films composed of nostalgia and hit soundtracks, but with a twist. Six of the seven women are lesbians, and many have had relationships with one another since their college days. When one of the women prefaces an introduction to another character with the remark “She's a long story,” she could be speaking about any of the friends. Unfortunately, Pollack's script doesn't pursue the depth that's suggested by the lives that these women tell us they lead. Fascinating characters such as Luce (Weber) and Maria (Negron) do appear to have long and very interesting stories that have as much to do with their lesbianism as with their work and relationships. However, scenes of the characters frolicking across the lawns of their alma mater come off as awkward and embarrassing. More impressive and poignant are some of the one-on-one conversations that touch on the women's lives and how they've changed -- both because of and in spite of their sexual preference -- since their college graduation in the 1970s. The push and pull of enduring friendships makes an occasional appearance in Everything Relative, spicing up the story and allowing us to see rifts in the otherwise blissful existence of characters such as Victoria, Katie, and Sarah (Schneider), the token heterosexual of the group. Despite some weak dialogue and problematic plot developments, Everything Relative's thematic re-definition of family provides a refreshing spin on the genre of reunion films as the film strives to present women who are both intelligent and sexual.
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