Whatever, Woody

Posted on 25 Jun 2009 at 1:29pm
By Arnold Wayne Jones Life+Style Editor

After 40 years, Woody Allen finally discovers gay men in his latest film


A naive Southern girl (Evan Rachel Wood) marries an older man but falls for a young actor (Henry Cavill) in the tepid Woody Allen comedy ‘Whatever Works.’

For all his liberal cosmopolitan angst, Woody Allen has always made depressingly hetero films. Sure, there are some tangential gay characters introduced along the way — most notably a lesbian ex-wife in "Manhattan" — but for a New Yorker whose characters are obsessed with art films, Allen rarely finds his way to Chelsea for characters.

So when he introduced a lesbian plot in last year’s "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," including a two girl-one guy threesome, he seemed at least aware that not all people are straight. Though, sadly, all men still seemed to be. Straight guys love lesbians already; where are the gay men?

Finally, it seems, in his latest, "Whatever Works."

It’s been five years and as many films since Allen told a New York story, and his latest is much a retread of his themes: fear of mortality, the quest for meaning in relationships, etc. But not only does he give us a two guy-one woman ménage a trois, he offers up what may be his first fully formed gay male characters ever.

You just have to wait till the end to find out who. (Alas, it is not beautiful Henry Cavill.)

Ah, well, can’t have everything.

That delayed gratification is further encumbered by the annoying presence of Larry David as Boris, a crotchety Woody stand-in: a pretentious and unlikable genius who falls for a much younger woman (Evan Rachel Wood, who’s less than compelling as a ditz). Wow, big stretch. This is Allen at his stalest, all worn gimmicks and tired ideas; still, it’s refreshing to see that even the Woodman has finally recognized that gay’s OK. Whatever works, indeed.

Grade: C+

Opens today at Landmark’s Magnolia Theater in the West Village.



SEEING STONEWALL
Film and politics intersect — literally — in Fort Worth this weekend, as Q Cinema and the Tarrant County Stonewall Democrats team up to commemorate Stonewall with a documentary double feature. The organizations jointly sponsor screenings of the documentaries "Before Stonewall," shown, and "After Stonewall" in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the rebellion. Stonewall Democrats president Scott Bellen also sees it as an educational event.

"It seemed like an opportunity to do some educational outreach. A primary purpose of Stonewall is to educate not only Democrats in issues that are important, but also the LGBT community," Bellen says.

Prepare to get schooled on your gay history.

While "Before Stonewall" suffers from a dated documentary style, it has compelling stories and subjects that shed light on the LGBT culture of yore. "I learned a lot just watching the documentary, "Bellen says. "It seemed well-grounded while presenting individual perspectives."

It also opened his eyes to the difference in gay life today.

"The political strategy was to be invisible; to earn respect by being good citizens. After the Stonewall uprising, leaders saw the need to claim our identity and that was voiced through Pride and by being visible."

A 1999 follow-up, "After Stonewall," covers the new dawn of the gay rights era. Detailing the AIDS crisis, religious backlash and the birth of a new culture, director John Scagliotti’s film looks more contemporary, with an ironically upbeat tone despite its serious nature.

Shown back-to-back, though, Bellen hopes this new type of event for TCSD will still draw a crowd.

"This is a very different event for us. We are used to having very fun parties and fundraisers," Bellen says. "When you think ‘celebration,’ two documentaries may not be how you think about it."

Bellen views film as a crucial tool when it comes to spreading the news about gay culture.

"Film is such an exciting opportunity and a great way for the community to tell our stories. Whether it is through documentaries, features, whether targeted to our community or mainstream, film is an important way to tell our stories."

The underlying importance of these films is not lost on Bellen. A movie lover himself, he ponders a future installment.

"If there was a third documentary, I would like to see it cover full equality in society so we’re no longer second-class citizens: A repeal of DOMA and ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and how all states turned over same-sex marriage bans. It would be great to have a film that treats LGBT struggles as history rather than something we’re still doing. That’s the documentary I’d like to see."

— Rich Lopez


"Before Stonewall" and "After Stonewall" screen at the Fort Worth Public Library, 500 W. Third St., Fort Worth, June 27 at 2 p.m. Free. Qcinema.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 26, 2009.

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