December 2020 Edition
Welcome to the first edition of our new monthly Outstanding curated collections. Outstanding aims to bring you the very best in LGBTQ+ cinema and TV every month, with themed collections that delve into the history of the genre. This month we take a look at three LGBTQ+ Christmas themed films. Featuring Carol (2015), C.R.A.Z.Y (2005) and Love Simon (2018). So grab the mince pies, pour a drink and enjoy our sparkling and fabulous LGBTQ+ Christmas recommendations for the festive season ahead.
In 1952 author Patricia Highsmith published a novel under the pseudonym of “Claire Morgan”. Its content continuing to inspire and fascinate new readers today, while its bravery is discussed at length in Universities, Colleges and writing circles. The Price of Salt focused on a brief yet passionate love affair in 1950s New York; a world away from the thrilling crime drama of her other widely known work Strangers On a Train. However, what made The Price of Salt powerful, dramatic and controversial was her decision to focus on a romantic affair between two women. One older, wealthy and married and the other young, free yet insecure in her feelings. However, the semi-autobiographical nature of Highsmith’s work would only be revealed many years later; her famous text only reprinted under her true name in 1990.
It took another 15 years for Highsmith’s novel to make it to the silver screen, but the result was a defining slice of LGBTQ+ cinema. With director Todd Haynes creating a luscious period piece that dovetailed hidden desire with the austerity and control of 50s America. His adaptation nothing short of a love letter to the power of Highsmith’s novel.
It’s December in New York City and the Christmas season is just beginning to take hold as the nights draw in, and the snow begins to fall. For Young Therese (Rooney Mara) her days are kept busy working behind the toy counter of a busy department store. Her efforts merely scraping herself a living, as she dreams of becoming a professional photographer. Meanwhile, her male friend Richard (Jake Lacy) desperately tries to move things beyond the casual ‘will they, won’t they’ of their on and off union. However, Therese is unconcerned by the pressures surrounding her, choosing to put her career before male interests. While at the same time, waiting for a spark of adventure in the monotony of daily life.
Enter Carol (Cate Blanchett), who slowly and gracefully walks up to the toy counter Therese manages. Her mission to find a new toy for her young daughter for the Christmas celebrations ahead. However, as Carol and Therese discuss potential purchases, flirtatious energy bounces from one side of the counter to the other. With Therese enamoured, yet uncertain of the beautiful woman who stands before her. At the same time as Carol’s confidence hides the pain of a planned divorce from her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler). But, when Carol leaves her gloves on Therese’s counter, a door is opened to a further meeting. A meeting that will finally offer Therese the spark of adventure she has long desired. But, at what cost for both women, in a male-dominated world?
Todd Haynes layers the beauty of 1950s New York with the stifling reality of post-war sexism and homophobia, in a movie that is nothing short of exquisite in both performances and direction. The confidence of Blanchett’s Carol hiding the pain of her false marriage. Her union with Harge a mere smokescreen for the desires and wants she embodies; her escape blocked by the love she holds for their daughter.
Meanwhile, Mara’s Therese is free from the control of a relationship, yet equally bound by the social restrictions surrounding her. With both women finding solace, freedom and rebirth in the arms of the other, their relationship one of love and admiration. But, it is the ability of Carol to dovetail hidden love with the social control wielded by men in a male-dominated America that transcends the boundaries of LGBTQ+ cinema. Its broader discussions on gender, freedom and rights glowing throughout the beautiful yet brief love story at its heart. Carol undeniably set a new standard in LGBTQ+ stories on screen. The sheer power it permeates, earning it a place as one of the finest LGBTQ+ movies of the past twenty years.
Director: Todd Haynes
If you have never heard of Jean-Marc Vallée’s outstanding French/Canadian comedy/drama, I forgive you. After all, apart from a highly successful film festival run in 2005, C.R.A.Z.Y never really made it out of the gates on its short theatrical run in the UK. But, I urge you to discover this gem of LGBTQ+ cinema now. Not only for its superb performances and killer score but, also for its sweeping tale of family life. Its themes of ‘coming out’ and acceptance dovetailing with a broader discussion on religion, self-identity and family belonging, as it takes us on a journey from the 1960s to 1980s alongside the Beaulieu family.
Born into the world on December 25th 1960, Zac Beaulieu (Marc-Andre Grondin) the fourth son of parents Gervais and Laurianne never quite fits the world around him. His arrival made even worse by one of his older brothers dropping him on the hospital floor on the first day of his life. But, as he grows into a young boy, this difference becomes more pronounced. With his mother believing him to have a unique ‘god-given’ talent for healing others, while his father worries about his love of prams.
However, despite his father’s constant judgement, Zac hero-worships his dad; a man who thrives on masculine stereotypes. While at the same time, struggling to express his love of each of his boys as he tries to ensure his family unit is seen as ‘normal’. Meanwhile, Zac develops an antagonistic and confrontational relationship with his oldest brother Raymond. A boy who is continually pushing boundaries and rebelling. There dislike for each other sitting at the heart of family conflicts as Zac grows into a teenager.
And it is within these formative years that Zac begins to question his sexual orientation; pushing his feelings down through a sense of shame. His outlet for the emotions surrounding him the music of Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd. However, feelings can only be suppressed for so long before they explode. And as Zac begins to find his feet in an adult world, his older brother Raymond goes even further off the rails.
Meanwhile, the family unit slowly changes, with his dad softening in attitude while still vehemently opposed to homosexuality. A trait that will ultimately lead to Zac betraying his feelings, hiding his thoughts while desperately searching for who he is, and who he could be. In a journey that takes us through two decades, embracing the reality that ‘coming out’ can be a long, drawn-out process. The need for self-acceptance wrapped up in family life, sibling rivalry and sexual experimentation.
With a genuinely incredible central performance from Marc-Andre Grondin and a solid supporting cast, C.R.A.Z.Y shines with humour and sincerity. It’s coming of age themes surrounded by the power of family, sex and religion. While at the same time reflecting the anger, emotional turmoil and humour of adolescence. But, in the landscape of LGBTQ+ ‘coming out’ pictures, what makes C.R.A.Z.Y uniquely different is its exploration of family love. With each scene bathed in the power of the family unit; both positive, negative, loving and controlling. And as one Christmas leads to the next, the Beaulieu family jump from the screen and into our hearts. Their journey wrapped in the same fears, hopes and laugher that many of us will have experienced on the road to adulthood.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Love Simon (2018)
With the exception of Call Me By Your Name and Blue is the Warmest Colour, very few modern LGBTQ+ movies have had the cultural impact of Love Simon. With the film rightly earning its place as a defining Generation Z, LGBTQ+ movie. Based on the best-selling novel Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda written by Becky Albertalli. Gregg Berlanti’s 2018 film sticks to the style and vision of the book, while also updating the narrative. In turn, creating a genuinely groundbreaking young adult LGBTQ+ rom-com.
But, over and above that, Love Simon joyfully embraces the work of the late, great John Hughes. By reflecting teenage experience through a lens of comedy, music, drama and romance. It’s tempo matching that of both Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, while at the same time subverting the heterosexuality of the 80s teen flick into a celebration of diversity and optimism for a brighter more inclusive future. The result of which is a teen comedy/drama that is unashamedly positive, its darker tones alleviated by a rare gay happy ending.
Simon (Nick Robinson) is an average student, with a nice house, supportive parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel) and a cooking obsessed younger sister. His best friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and Abby (Alexandra Shipp) offering support. While at the same time, he enjoys an active school and social life. However, underneath all of this, Simon has a deep secret, one he is yet to embrace or disclose fully; he is gay.
Deep down, Simon knows his friends and family would be accepting of his secret. But, he also knows that speaking it aloud may change everything, and he isn’t quite ready for that yet. Plus Simon can’t help but question why anyone should have to come out, or why “straight is the default.” But, when a fellow student anonymously writes a post on the college blog; expressing his fear at coming out. Simon responds privately to the email using the alias ‘Jacques’. With both boys striking up a secret online friendship, as Simon wonders who the mysterious boy named ‘Blue’ really is. One of his friends? A member of his drama group? Or someone he is yet to meet?
Now at this point, I know what you’re wondering. What makes Love Simon an LGBTQ+ Christmas movie? Well if the Jackson five singing Someday at Christmas as Simon dreams of kissing ‘Blue’ under the mistletoe is not enough to convince you. Then how about Simon deciding to come out as the presents are unwrapped around the tree. And while Simon’s Christmas is also full of challenges, it is the moment he decides not to hide anymore. Finally embracing the need to be himself, even if his arms were twisted through a horrid act of revenge.
Love Simon truly excels in its ability to bring a fresh and engaging gay romantic comedy to a younger audience. Its 12A certificate, groundbreaking in ensuring its ability to reach a broad and diverse audience of young people and families. While at the same time, its studio backing and wide-ranging advertising campaign made it a game-changer in LGBTQ+ teen cinema.
Director: Greg Berlanti