Presented by Chicago Filmmakers, the 30th Reeling festival runs Thursday, November 3, through Sunday, November 13, at Chicago Filmmakers, Instituto Cervantes, Landmark’s Century Centre, Music Box, Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, and Portage. Unless otherwise noted, tickets for all screenings are $11, $9 for matinees (before 4 PM), and passes are available for $45 (five shows), $80 (ten shows), and $125 (all shows, excepting special admissions). Tickets can be purchased online at reelingfilmfestival.org, in person at Chicago Filmmakers, and at the venue prior to the show. Following are reviews for selected films screening through Thursday, November 12; for more information, including a complete schedule, see reelingfilmfestival.org.
Break My Fall Two scruffy young women watch their love affair unravel against the backdrop of East London’s indie rock scene in this unwatchable debut feature by Kanchi Wichmann. Liza (Kat Redstone, a prime candidate for the Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber website) realizes something’s up when she stumbles upon a love letter addressed to her sweetheart, Sally Sellout (Sophie Anderson). Over the next few days—or nights, to be more precise, since the characters all seem to stay up until dawn—the women bicker wearily, try to rehearse for a gig, come together briefly for hot sex, get drunk and stagger around outside rock clubs, etc. The story is so shapeless that hours after watching this I had to scour my notes for more information. All I found was a litany of insults sarcastically punctuated by British slang. —J.R. Jones 105 min. Thu 11/10, 9:15 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Gigola The brooding title character of this 2010 drama is a dandyish lesbian who prowls the streets of early-60s Paris and earns loads of money having sex with women she meets at the storied nightclub Chez Moune. The episodic story, which writer-director Laure Charpentier adapted from her own 1972 novel, culminates in Gigola (Lou Doillon) considering the straight and narrow. But most of the fun here is in the stylish set pieces, filled with such colorful characters as Cora (Marie Kremer), whom Gigola purchases from her pimp as a sort of romantic gesture; Tony (Eduardo Noriega), the pimp in question, who subsequently enters into a strange sort of friendship with Gigola; and Odette (Marisa Paredes), an aging nightclub habitue who goes mad. Less alluring are the sex scenes, which would be hotter if they weren’t scored with something dangerously close to Muzak. In French with subtitles. —Sam Worley 102 min. Tue 11/8, 9 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Hannah & the Hasbian This laborious gal-pal comedy from Australia plays so much like a sitcom that you almost expect a laugh track to kick in. Once hetero but now firmly lesbian, the leggy blond heroine (Emily O’Brien-Brown) is devastated when her lover (Matylda Buczko) announces that she’s going straight but invites her to stay on as a friend and roommate. The other woman sharing their flat (Mahalia Brown) is a vulgar narcissist and serial lover who improbably winds up giving the ex-couple relationship advice. There’s little eroticism or genuine emotion here; mainly the women sitting around their living room, talking feverishly and drinking, as writer-director Gordon Napier updates ancient rom-com cliches with references to cell phones and Facebook. 73 min. —Andrea Gronvall Fri 11/4, 9:15 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Mary Marie Like a magic trick, this atmospheric drama owes its success to sleight of hand. Two ravishing young women (Alexandra Roxo, Alana Kearns-Green), clad in baby-doll dresses and affectionate as sisters, return to their rural hometown following the death of a loved one. They plan to spend the summer sorting through the deceased’s personal effects, but their coziness is disrupted by a local handyman (Tim Linden). Languid days and balmy nights feed the ensuing romantic triangle before competition and jealousy turn it ominous. The movie’s naturalism and careful plotting recall the stories of Guy de Maupassant, right down to the nifty twist at the end. Roxo directed a script she cowrote with Kearns-Green. 79 min. —Andrea Gronvall Sat 11/5, 9 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Rosa Morena A Danish man (Anders W. Berthelsen), prohibited from adopting a child because he’s gay, goes searching for a black-market option in the slums of Brazil and befriends a young pregnant woman (Barbara Garcia) who already has more children than she can handle. Directed by Carlos Augusto de Oliveira, this drama from Denmark suffers from the fact that its protagonist is an emotional cipher: wanting a baby is his single identifiable character trait, and though it explains the escalating amount of money he’s willing to spend to get one, it hardly prepares us for his deepening relationship with the mother or his eventual jealously toward the man he suspects is the baby’s biological father. By contrast, the young woman is a complex, contradictory character whose resolve to sell her child weakens when the business transaction morphs into friendship and then romance. In English and subtitled Portuguese and Danish. —Sam Worley Sat 11/5, 2:30 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre
Wish Me Away In May 2010 country singer Chely Wright came out of the closet with a confessional album, a memoir, and a battery of press appearances; the media blitz continues with this documentary, which follows Wright from her conservative upbringing to her career as a Nashville star. The movie sticks closely to the cliches of repression and liberation: Wright recalls trying to pray the gay away as a child and accepting it proudly as an adult but never gives much sense of how she got from one pole to the other. The publicist she hires for her coming out suggests that she prepare for the charge that she’s using her sexuality to boost her career—a fair point that this hagiography doesn’t address very well. Wright worries whether she’ll continue to find work in the music business, but in the meantime she’s learned how to turn her sexuality into a cottage industry. Bobbie Birleffi and Beverly Kopf directed. —Sam Worley 96 min. Sat 11/5, 7 PM, Landmark’s Century Centre