Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eric Schaeffer butts up against convention once again -- gloriously -- in BOY MEETS GIRL

A filmmaker who consistently goes his own way -- unconventionally, often where sexuality is concerned -- Eric Schaeffer is at it again in his newest movie, BOY MEETS GIRL. Mr. Schaeffer usually stars in his own films, and for some audiences I think this has proven a deal-breaker. TrustMovies happens to enjoy this actor/director's somewhat abrasive on-screen personality, and so his films have generally given me more pleasure than not. In this latest, which is also one of his best movies, the filmmaker plays but a tiny role, leaving the major acting to the chops of others. This may prove a smart move, garnering Schaeffer (shown below) a newer and wider audience.

Throughout his more than 25-year career as both writer and director, Schaeffer has been most interested in three topics: the independent movie business, love relationships and, of late, out-of-the-mainstream sexuality. After Fall, Winter dealt with (surprisingly well) the relationship between a blocked writer and a younger dominatrix, while Boy Meet Girl tackles the transgendered in a manner that provides the least judgmental, most all-embracing movie experience on this subject that I've yet seen. Not that other characters in the film are not judgmental and sometimes nasty, but the filmmaker/creator attempts to and mostly succeeds at showing us this experience from as many angles and viewpoints as possible, while focusing on his leading character, Ricky, a boy who has always longed to be a girl and has for some time been working to make this desire a reality.

As played by the very pretty and talented newcomer, Michelle Hendley (above and below), Ricky is alternately sweet, sassy and sad, as she/he negotiates her way through the various land mines of sexual freedom in today's Kentucky. TrustMovies is guessing that Ms Hendley is herself transgendered. Or maybe not. I don't think it really matters because the point of this unusually clever and affecting film is that all kinds of love and sex and genders are OK and to be encouraged.

Even the hugely overused title that Schaeffer has chosen turns out to be just about perfect, for Boy indeed Meets Girl in this film in all kinds of ways, real and ironic, most remarkably in the performance of Ms Hendley, which bring the two together in a manner we have not seen. In one of the final moments, a full-frontal knock-out (which may or may not have been CGI-enhanced), we see the sexes coming together unforgettably. (Note: I have just been informed by the film's publicist that Ms Hendley is indeed transgender, which is unusual since most transgender roles, notably Jared Leto’s character in Dallas Buyer’s Club, are played by non-trans actors. Also: there are no CGI effects in that nudity scene.)

This is part of what Schaeffer wants -- to force us to confront things we would prefer to leave in the dark. He has his characters do this, too, and his command of screenwriting and directing has grown stronger over the years until, in this film -- romantic comedy that it most assuredly is -- he brings it all home: the confrontation, the boundary-breaking, the shock and finally the acceptance.

The moviemaker and his casting director, Jenn Haltman, have come up with a terrifically good bunch of actors, each of whom manages to succeed and surprise us. The plum role of Ricky's new friend and maybe more, a local debutante named Francesca, is played by Alexandra Turshen (above), who brings immense beauty, charm and generosity to her glowing performance.

In the role of Ricky's long-term best pal, Robby, Michael Welch (three photos above) all but steals the movie with his rough/sweet portrayal of a guy who is faithful and trustworthy yet can't see or accept what he most wants and needs, while a dark hunk named Michael Galante (above) surprises with his initial homophobia that masks something more and yet offers a step beyond the usual cliché we're so used to seeing.

Even the parents here prove a little unusual. There's a scene at an engagement party in which one father, whom we'd expect to be a bigot, shows his sturdier side, while another -- Ricky's kindly dad, played very well by Randall Newsome (above) -- proves the sort of father we all wish we'd had. Schaeffer also manages a funny flashback (below) involving a "flasher" and the response he gets from our little "girl."

Boy Meets Girl is such a feel-good delight -- while tackling a subject that is usually anything but -- that it is tempting to over-praise it. So I'll stop right here. But it's a big step forward for Mr. Schaffer. I can't wait to see what this fellow gets up to next. The movie, from Wolfe Releasing, opens this Friday, February 6, in New York City at the Village East Cinema, and on February 27 at Laemmle's Noho 7 in the L.A. area. Midway between these dates on February 13 -- it will open in San Diego, Washington DC and Brattleboro, Vermont. Click here to see all dates and theaters.

No comments: