The 24th Fresno Reel Pride Film Festival continues this weekend with more than 29 feature and short films being shown in three venues: the Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave.; The Voice Shop, 1296 N. Wishon Ave.; and Severance Dance Studio, 1401 N. Wishon Ave.
The festival showcases movies with gay, lesbian and transgender stories. Along with the movie screenings, there are receptions, parties and appearances by filmmakers and stars.
Here are reviews of two of the major films being screened this weekend.
"Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?" Grade: B: In this Woody Allen-ish comedy, Cuban-American director/writer/actor Anna Margarita Albelo weaves elements of her own life into the story about a promising young director who does an all-lesbian version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" to win points with a potential new love.
This art-inspired-by-life tale is well written and directed — especially the movie that serves as the backdrop — but Albelo's acting is inconsistent to the point of being distracting.
It's easy to believe her character when she talks about wasted potential. There's the kind of deep angst that feels real. But other emotional moments feel uncomfortable.
That inconsistency would have been a major problem had Albelo not surrounded herself with a great supporting cast, particularly Guinevere Turner, who plays her best friend and Elizabeth Taylor wannabe. Equally as strong is Agnes Olech as the film's cinematographer who struggles with her emotions regarding the director. Both are so good they cover many of Albelo's acting flaws.
Because of the overall strong cast and the smart story, "Who's Afraid of Vagina Wolf?" ends up a thoroughly entertaining look at how people can be blinded by love, or turn a blind eye to love. It's a universal theme delivered with equal parts comedy and drama.
Albelo shows a great knack for getting others to portray deep emotions. She's so good at that, it would be wise for her to play to her rich skills as a filmmaker rather than getting in front of the camera for her next movie.
-- Rick Bentley
"The Happy Sad." Grade: C-: Uneven in writing and direction, this "something for everyone" film — which with its intertwined gay and lesbian story lines almost seems designed by committee to appeal to film festival programmers looking for inclusive closing night titles — is a disappointment.
We follow two New York 20-something couples through relationship gyrations. A waiter, Aaron (Charlie Barnett) and his boyfriend, Marcus (Leroy McClain) have been together six years, a period of time that the film declares nearly "forever" in Gay Time, and both agree to date other men while vowing never to fall in love with anyone else. Meanwhile, a grade-school teacher, Annie (Sorel Carradine) dumps her young boyfriend, Stan (Cameron Scoggins). He winds up sleeping with Marcus, while she hooks up with a fellow teacher, Mandy (Maria Dizzia).
Director Rodney Evans strives for a smart, quirky tone that allows for meaningful discussions about such issues as monogamy and bisexuality. But the script, by Ken Urban (which he adapted from his own play), can't bring together the elements of humor and introspection into a meaningful synthesized whole. Characters recite eloquent monologues — the acting is sometimes quite good — but then an outrageous coincidental plot contrivance saps the forward momentum.
It's refreshing to see a gay film in which the characters are just as messed up in terms of romance as straight people. If you give lots of points for effort, it might work for you. But despite its lofty intentions, the film lacks emotional punch. "The Happy Sad" too often is neither.
-- Donald Munro
Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Donald Munro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (559) 441-6373. Read their blogs at fresnobeehive.com.