Where have all the movie plots gone?
March 16, 2014 10:13 PM   Subscribe

Where are all the films which have queer characters whose sexuality is not the main point of the film? Action movies with lesbian heroes; courtroom dramas with transgender lawyers; road trip movies with gay buddies out for more than getting laid; science fiction/spooky stuff films with androgynous/intersex protagonists, I'm not fussed. Preferably ones where no one dies as a "punishment" for being queer.

It is queer film festival time again and so far I have seen: one Nepalese lesbian film in which the protagonists are discovering their feelings for each other/women in general, plus one of them dies; one lesbian film in which young protagonists explore their feelings for each other with horror metaphors about the intensity of their feelings. Thankfully no one seems to actually die in that one. Although there were some very odd/funny pseudo-death scenes.

My to-see films include: Japanese women writers; Miranda Otto playing Elizabeth Bishop having a tempestuous relationship with a Brasilian architect; 40-something lesbian trying to get her act together and find a partner by dressing up as a vulva; a hedonistic queer party which turns orgyesque. The jury is out on whether any of them will involve death, but they are all about relationships, sex, sexuality. At least they are not coming-out films or young love films, variations on which I have seen so many times I'm going to be sick if I see another one.

So! Tell me your films which feature gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender/intersex characters which are not:
- primarily about the relationships of aforementioned characters
- especially not about coming out/gradually becoming aware of feelings for same sex/different gender identity etc (ie, not "issues" films)
- the aforementioned characters are the main characters - ie complex and fully developed - and not just the one-dimensional funny sidekick/evil villain etc
- none of the aforementioned characters dies as "punishment" for their sexuality. It can be hard to tell if someone is dying as a requirement of the plot or as punishment, I'm prepared for grey area on this point.

Documentaries are ok but I would prefer "fiction" films because I think it's these types that are more unimaginative in general. Docos tend to be more diverse, as the people themselves in them are not solely about their sexualities.

Bonus points if the film is available within Australia! Super bonus points if the film was made outside the US (other languages perfectly ok).
posted by Athanassiel to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
By Hook or By Crook.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:23 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best in Show has two gay couples within the ensemble. One couple is a developing lesbian couple but the focus is on the competition.
posted by mochapickle at 10:24 PM on March 16, 2014 [4 favorites]

Great question and a hard one.

I think My Best Day fits the bill really well, because it has a main character who just happens to be queer, and it's not an issue at all.

And except for it not being a film, I think House of Cards might qualify.
posted by oxisos at 10:31 PM on March 16, 2014

Does Bound work for you?
posted by RobotHero at 10:44 PM on March 16, 2014

Not threadsitting, but thought of an example that might help for what I'm looking for: Fried Green Tomatoes. Idgie & Ruth's relationship is part of the story but it is not the whole story, there is heaps more going on!
posted by Athanassiel at 10:46 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everybody's Fine. I think if I explained how the character fits into the story it'd be a bit of a spoiler, but I thought it was handled nicely.
posted by misozaki at 12:57 AM on March 17, 2014

The Japanese film Waterboys features five main characters, all guys, and one of them is pretty openly gay. But the other four guys acknowledge his sexuality as a character trait more than anything and it doesn't have anything to do with the main plot. It's a fun movie. This is an interesting question and I look forward to the other answers.
posted by misozaki at 1:19 AM on March 17, 2014

Sorry for commenting so many times, but I wonder if Kinky Boots would fit the bill?
posted by misozaki at 1:34 AM on March 17, 2014

In many ways The Crying Game fits, as a non cishetero relationship is only part of a larger story dealing with many different things. The link is spoilery. I consider the statute of limitations up on that film, others may not.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:04 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Four Weddings and a Funeral? I grant you the gay couple are not the lead characters but they are in a strong support role in what is very much an ensemble piece. And then, then there would be [spoliers].
posted by evil_esto at 2:05 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Four Weddings definitely gets disqualified on the 'no one dies' point.
posted by corvine at 2:45 AM on March 17, 2014

Cloud Atlas - not sure it if fits, but such a neat movie
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:51 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah but he dies from a heart-attack; cardiac disease does not discriminate.
posted by evil_esto at 3:15 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Birdcage
posted by christiehawk at 4:29 AM on March 17, 2014

Your Sister's Sister
posted by christiehawk at 4:31 AM on March 17, 2014

The Night Listener
Flawless (not a great movie, but one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's earliest highly praised leading roles)
posted by bluefly at 5:12 AM on March 17, 2014

If you are open to a mini-series, I would suggest "Torchwood: Children of Earth." Main protagonist is bi-sexual, but that is not a primary focus at all.

(Please note: This is a recommendation for the miniseries "Children of Earth" only, which is outstanding. Avoid all other Torchwood.)
posted by jbickers at 5:53 AM on March 17, 2014

The Devil Wears Prada.
posted by Melismata at 6:00 AM on March 17, 2014

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?
posted by Atom12 at 6:09 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen either of these films, but both come as recommended from friends with pretty good taste

D.E.B.S., a silly parody/caper with school-girl spies

Tokyo Godfathers, an anime drama/comedy about street people and a baby.
posted by jb at 6:25 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

also: Dirty Girl - which I have seen and is really quite fun
posted by jb at 6:29 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

sorry, I should have included some description: Dirty Girl is a cross-country caper starring two teens and their sugar-bag baby.
posted by jb at 6:30 AM on March 17, 2014

Cher was nominated for an Oscar for playing Meryl Streep's lesbian room mate in Silkwood. The fact that she's a lesbian is neither here nor there as far as plot development goes, but the character is more than one-dimensional, for sure.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:41 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chutney Popcorn
The Color Purple
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
posted by kyrademon at 6:43 AM on March 17, 2014

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - one of the main characters played by Val Kilmer has the not very politically correct name of Gay Perry. So yeah, he's gay, but it's incidental to the plot.
posted by BeBoth at 7:20 AM on March 17, 2014

The queer characters aren't the focus of In a World, but I really liked the way they - and almost every other character - got to be a real human being character, instead of "the gay one" or "the ethnic one".
posted by ldthomps at 8:18 AM on March 17, 2014

I was going to suggest The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as well; but I would suspect that someone such as yourself (living in Australia and interested in queer cinema) has already seen it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:36 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bagdad Cafe is a queer film in many ways. The director, Percy Adlon, is German in an international kind of a way. Also it co-stars CCH Pounder, who should be in more stuff. She should be in all the stuff.

The Colour Purple, as someone said above.

Have you seen Morvern Callar? Which starts with a death, but not one that bothers the viewer very much. It is also quite a strange film, and not so much a gay one - but sexuality is not so very defined in the film, so if you wanted it to fit your criteria, you could make it do that.

Okay, and this is a provocation, but Liquid Sky. Which has everything in it you don't want, but not in the way you're thinking. I mean, I don't think anybody dies because they are lesbian.

(I also find Showgirls quite a gay film but that's because I've got a thing for Gina Gershon. In case it's not obvious from my examples, I'm really more about the subtext than the text.)
posted by glasseyes at 9:48 AM on March 17, 2014

p.s. Birdcage is nice; La Cage aux Folles is better, if you don't mind subtitles.
posted by glasseyes at 9:52 AM on March 17, 2014

Withnail & I isn't explicitly homosexual, or even implicitly, I suppose. But it's very queer and a very good movie about male friendship and loss.
posted by jsturgill at 10:08 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Would My Beautiful Laundrette do? The relationship between Johnny and Omar is a key plot point, but not in an "OMG this is a gay relationship" way, and the movie is really about class, race, immigration and Thatcher.
posted by Frowner at 11:30 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The BFI in London is hosting its FLARE LGBT film festival next week. Their lineup might give you some ideas for additional new films to look out for if/when they make it down under.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:09 PM on March 17, 2014

Pariah features complex characters, though it does talk about coming out. But it's in the context of many other transitioning-to-adult-world problems.
posted by fritillary at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2014

Mulholland Drive is the best lesbian movie that's not really a lesbian movie
posted by christiehawk at 12:05 PM on March 18, 2014

Oh yeah don't forget Black Swan
posted by christiehawk at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2014

I thought Black Swan was a bit lesbian=insane-y.
posted by Kaleidoscope at 2:58 AM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the suggestions, some of those I haven't heard of (others I have and are great recs) but have added to my to-watch list. Some, sadly, are not available in Australia. I've best-answered lots - there is no best answer! Some of them did seem a little issues-oriented (coming out or coming to terms with sexuality) and/or the queer character is a stereotype or not terribly well-developed.

And since many of you have favourited this, I thought I'd add my recommendations that don't overlap with those here. My memory for some of them is a little rusty.

Celestial Clockwork, which is borderline because the gay and lesbian characters are supporting, but still good.

The Hanging Garden, in which a man returns home after a long absence to confront the ghosts of his childhood.

Velvet Goldmine, in which a very young Christian Bale investigates what happened to Bowie-esque glam rock star Jonathan Rhys Meyer. Lots of sex and drugs and rock and roll, and Ewan McGregor shagging someone on a rooftop.

The Monkey's Mask, in which detective Susie Porter investigates the disappearance of a young woman and gets drawn into all kinds of shenanigans. There is definitely a high-drama love story here but hey, James Bond films get to be action flicks despite the shagging. Oh, and the book was way better.

Beginners, in which Ewan McGregor is coming to terms with his now-deceased father's belatedly-discovered sexuality. Christopher Plummer is wonderful as his dad.

I Love You, Philip Morris, in which Jim Carrey plays a con man who develops quite a thing for fellow inmate Ewan McGregor (him again). I guess this is borderline because of the relationship's centrality, but at the same time, the cons and all the other action make it squeak in for me. Plus it was hilarious, and I'm not Jim Carrey's biggest fan.

The Doom Generation, in which James Duval and Rose McGowan (yes, Marilyn Manson's honey) pick up a sexy bad man (Jonathan Schaech) and go on a wild crime/sex spree around the US. This is a Gregg Araki film, you have been warned.

Circumstance, an Iranian film which you think is about the developing relationship between two women friends, but which turns out to be something different.

And whilst remembering all of these I came across a few more which I haven't seen yet but which sound potentially promising.

Shock to the System about a gay detective investigating the murder of a college student. Could be clichéd.

Undertow, a Peruvian ghost story with a married man who has a male lover.

Cloudburst, in which a lesbian couple escape from their nursing home in order to road trip it to Canada and get married. Directed by Thom Fitzgerald, who also did The Hanging Garden (above) so promising.

I'm aware that my list is short on bisexual, transgender and intersex stories. I would love more of these.
posted by Athanassiel at 11:46 PM on March 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

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