Sunday, November 14, 2010

DVDebut: THE FOUR-FACED LIAR tackles relationships and shifting sexualities

Wow.  Here's a real "relationship" movie -- one that explores what it takes to keep 20-somethings together.  What they want -- women and men -- and what they're willing to do, and not do, to get it. It's also a movie that isn't afraid to channel Emily Bronte. (We've had enough Jane Austen for awhile: Book clubs? Alternate scenarios? Zombies?  People: Come on!)  So huzzahs to Jacob Chase (shown below), the young director/editor and his writer/lead actress Marja Lewis Ryan (adapted from her play) for their new film THE FOUR-FACED LIAR. Fast, crisp, sweet -- and very light on its feet, this Slamdance selection and winner at several GLBT-type film fests is generally delightful. (And when it isn't, it's never less than acceptable.)

Almost as an afterthought, it might seem, does the lesbian theme kick in.  Sure, our main character, Bridget, played by the smart 'n charming but take-no-prisoners Ms Ryan, is unabashedly butch (she's shown below), but so thoroughly does the movie want to explore what brings people close, and what keeps them there and/or separates them, that the sexuality of these individuals takes a back seat to their personality. Which means, for a change, that character actually trumps cock and cunt. Impressive.

The living arrangements of the five main characters -- two straight couples and one gay girl -- seem real enough, if not particularly typical. Ryan's dialog is fast and frisky; you'll have to pay attention, but the concentration is worth your while. The movie is full of smart visuals (not showy, just smart: witness the New Year's Eve countdown) often accompanied by some ace music.

The five actors are all new to me (and probably will be to you), but they're good. Daniel Carlisle (above, left) as the "straight" -- in a few too many ways -- boyfriend is particularly adept at expressing genuine caring for his long-time girlfriend (Emily Peck, above, right), who is believable and more as she confronts new and passionate desires that come up against her more standard and expected needs.

Todd Kubrak (above, left) may be playing the typical spread-your-seed-everywhere male, but he does it with enough quirks and kindliness that he never completely loses our faith. And he has a wonderful "ballet" scene in which apologizes and woos back his girl: the lovely Liz Osborn (above, right) -- who might steal the movie were the whole ensemble not so strong.

As much about the difference between the passionate life and the comfortable life as about any difference in straight or gay sexuality, the film is full of keen moments and alert talk: the teeth-brushing scenes, the pan-scratching scene or the tears that suddenly flow. "Are tears really made out of the same things as buggers?" asks Kubrak as he cries and considers.  "I think I can taste that...."  And when one character says, "I tried. I'm trying," it's enough to break your heart because it's also clear that trying won't do the trick.

The ending, about which I'll just say, it's wonderful, reminded me of the early and little-seen Michael Parks movie Wild SeedThe Four-Faced Liar, another excellent title from Wolfe Video, appeared on DVD this past week, for sale or rental.

All photos are from the film, except those of Mr. Chase. The one of him and his cast, above, comes courtesy of

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