Friday, April 15, 2011

An Affirmative Act

[AN AFFIRMATIVE ACT is currently playing in select theaters across the country.]

AN AFFIRMATIVE ACT bills itself as, “the first-ever courtroom drama about the legalization of gay marriage.” And I suppose it is, in the same way that Ed Wood's GLEN OR GLENDA? was the first-ever drama about transvestites and transsexuals. Both films feature equally ridiculous and convoluted plots, bad acting, shoddy production values, and inept direction.

The only thing I'm not sure of is to what degree this film has the same loopy sincerity as Wood's schlock classic. Director Jana Mattioli is, according to the film's press materials, an LGBT community activist. But surely she must have realized how silly and unrealistic writer/producer Ken Del Vecchio's screenplay was, and intentionally played up the camp aspects, right? To be honest, I just don't know.

However we're supposed to take this nonsense, the film concerns a married couple who, if you're particularly unobservant, appear to be man and wife. But surprise, surprise, Terry (Candice Holdorf) is really a woman. Terry and her wife Samantha (Elissa Goldstein) get arrested for fraud and have their adopted son taken away by children's services. The governor (Justin Deas) is secretly working on a law to ban same-sex marriage in New Jersey and doesn't want this case to potentially set any precedents, so he advises his attorney general to get the couple to plead guilty to something, and then let them off without any real punishment.

Somehow this intertwines with a neo-nazi, a mysterious underworld kingpin known only as “The Man in the White Suit”, a former Village Person practicing law, murder by sandwich, and Costas Mandylor being whipped while Charles Durning watches, after which the two have a pleasant conversation that seems completely unrelated to anything else in the movie. My guess is the Durning and Mandylor footage, in classic Ed Wood fashion, was shot for another movie that never got finished and reused here to give AN AFFIRMATIVE ACT a little star power. This movie is so ludicrous, though, who knows?

The motto of exploitation filmmakers has always been to make the kind of movies Hollywood either can't make or won't make. Touching on controversial subjects has always been a surefire way to turn a profit, with “birth of a baby” movies, drug scare films, and examinations of the nudist lifestyle all putting on an educational front in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. My guess is that's exactly what we have here. And in a way, I kind of have to admire Del Vecchio for bringing back a bit of the ballyhoo and carny hucksterism of the old days of exploitation cinema.

AN AFFIRMATIVE ACT isn't a good film by any means, but it's just so out to lunch that I can't say I wasn't entertained. Of course not everyone is as enamored of “so bad it's good” type movies as I am. If I had plunked down my hard earned cash expecting to see the serious, thoughtful examination of an important issue, I would probably be clamoring for my money back. PHILADELPHIA this ain't. 1 out of 4 stars (unless you're looking for the next THE ROOM, in which case it's more like 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.)

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