Friday, January 29, 2016

PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST: Mitchell & Zeidler's whiz-bang lesbian rom-com opens

Los Angeles' Arena Cinema in Hollywood heralds the theatrical debut of one of the most charming, clever, funny and generally all-round adorable lesbian rom-coms this critic has seen in a long, long time: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGA-MIST, which opens today, Friday, January 29, at this popular venue for independent film. Written and directed by John Mitchell & Christina Zeidler -- shown below, with Ms Zeidler on the left -- the movie hails from Canada, where they know how to do this kind of thing right.

"Right" meaning real, smart and subtle but also theatrical enough to entertain and amuse. This is no easy task, but thanks to the skills of Mitchell and Zeidler and the quite lovely and enterprising cast they have assembled, the movie turns out to better than you might possibly imagine. We're in rom-com territory, of course, specifically the lesbian variety, but instead of insisting on embracing every last cliche of the genre and sub-genre, Portrait instead involves a lot of just-off-center behavior and ideas, to the point that we're almost constantly chuckling along with the characters here, even as we do indeed understand the importance of where they are coming from -- and why.

The main character -- that serial monogamist, who is alerted to her "status" by one of her best friends --  is a not-quite-young lady named Elsie, played with great joie de vivre and just the right amount of trepidation by a very charming and lovely actress (shown above and below, right) named Diane Flacks.

The movie opens with her sudden split from a long-time girlfriend, done in a rather original manner, which leads to much humor and a little heartache down the road, as we follow Elsie in her adventures with a new woman, her old flame, her mom, her boss and co-workers, as she tries to figure out just who she is and what she's doing.

It's a keen and surprisingly bracing adventure of learning, feeling and doing -- with the comedic high point a funeral for a cat (shown above) that brings together many of the folk we've gotten to know. This scene is so bizarre yet real, honest yet hilarious that it will probably remain in my memory for as long as I have one.

The cast -- uniformly interesting and good, with all its members looking more "real" that you often find in films like this -- includes former SNL alumnus, Robin Duke in the choice role of Elsie's dizzy, funny mother, and an actress new to me, Carolyn Taylor, (above, left) who plays Elsie's suddenly-ex girlfriend. Ms Taylor -- alternately moving and funny, confused and angry -- offers up an almost shockingly on-target performance in this unusual role.

As Elsie's new love interest a very beautiful actress named Vanessa Dunn (above) sparks up the movie with her low-key appeal and bright, off-hand intelligence. All in all, this is an unsually fine example of the genre, one that will certainly appeal to LGBT audiences and might just cross over into the mainstream, as well.

From Wolfe Releasing, Portrait of Serial Monogamist opens today at the Arena Cinema in Los Angeles and almost immediately thereafter (on Tuesday, February 9th) hits DVD and VOD via Wolfe Video.

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