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MGM Studios DVD presents
Go Fish (1994)

"Throughout lesbian history there has been a serious lack of evidence that will tell us what these women's lives were truly about. Lesbian lives and lesbian relationships barely exist on paper, and it is with that in mind and understanding the meaning and the power of history, that we begin to want to change history."
- Kia (T. Wendy McMillan)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: August 14, 2001

Stars: Guinevere Turner, V.S. Brodie, T. Wendy McMillan, Anastasia Sharp
Other Stars: Migdalia Melendez, Jamika Ajalon, Jennifer Allen, Stephanie Boles, Joanna Brown, Michele Cullom, Danielia Falcon, Mary Garvey, Susan Gregson, Tracy Kimme, Carolyn Kotlarsky, Elspeth Kydd, Julia LaFleur, Lisa Raymond, Dorothea Reichenbacher, Shelly Schneider-Bello, Arthur C. Stone, Brooke Webster, Mimi Weddell
Director: Rose Troche

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality and sexual dialogue
Release Date: July 24, 2001
UPC: 027616864413
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C C-BB D

DVD Review

In order for me to classify something as a good film, it needs to fulfill certain basic requirements, regardless of the subject matter. First, it must be engaging at some level. Second, it should have a decent story. Third it should have at least one character that is developed enough that we care about them, and fourth, it should be well acted and crafted with some attention to fluidity, unless its purpose it to be disjointed by nature. First time directorial efforts tend to be problematic both for reasons of inexperience and the often associated lack of budget which denies the ability to do the editing required to create a finished piece that works. When it comes to films about gay lifestyles, the problem is that while the filmmakers may have good intentions, their attempts generally either fall into a series of in-jokes and references that anyone outside the gay community is alienated by, or they end up doing nothing more than reinforcing stereotypes that don't resonate either inside or outside the gay community. Just because the director is intimate with their subject doesn't necessarily mean they know how to make a good film. Go Fish is a case in point.

After a brief introduction in which a group of students are listing off women known or thought to be lesbians, and a monologue that sounds like we are in for a document that shows the true nature of lesbians, the film opens with Max (Guinevere Turner) writing in her journal about her fantasies of sleeping with Evy (Migdalia Melendez), who just happens to now be her roommate Kia's (T. Wendy McMillan) lover. Max, a fairly hip and good-looking young woman, has been celebate for the past ten months, a situation her lesbian friends are trying to put an end to, to the point of having a series of tête à têtes about how they can remedy the situation. While Kia and Max have a drink at a lesbian hangout, Kia is combing the room for a likely candidate and spies Ely (V.S. Brodie), a girl she had met before through a mutual friend. With Ely looking pretty much the plain-Jane-hippy-type, Max isn't very interested, but when Kia sets them up later on, the two end up going out anyway, catching a film before returning to Ely's apartment. Here, they share witty banter about gay filmmaking and tea before Max closes in for a kiss. At that moment the phone rings, and coincidentally, it is Ely's estranged partner, who now lives half a continent away in Seattle. So much for scoring.

With Ely "taken", Max figures she is relinquished to a world of perpetual celibacy, while her friends continue to push the two together, urging Ely to accept that her past relationship is really over, getting her to cut her hair, which ends up transforming her into a butch. Ely's roommate Daria (Anastasia Sharp), decides that she should hold a party, with the intent of getting Max and Ely together. The results are inevitable.

The film is strung together with a lot of "artsy" elements—shots of hands, lightbulbs, and so forth—and the occasional narrative is added with underlying, echoed whispers. In the "meeting of minds" sessions between Kia, Daria and her various lovers, they discuss Max's lack of sex, Ely's lack of sex and pet names for vaginas. We also witness Evy being "outed" to her mother, and the wrath of the lesbian community against Daria when she sleeps with a man, subsequently being asked to withdraw her claim to lesbianship. Contrary to the film's opening, which expresses a need for an exposition of the true lesbian, what we end up with is an extremely shallow protrayal of the lesbian community, packed with caricatures and stereotypical male-bashing attitudes. The characters relationships are based soley on the sexual element, with no sign whatsoever of an emotional level, common interests, physical attraction, or any other usual basis for relationships. The only concern is sexual gratification and having a partner with the right equipment for that purpose. Aside from the brief "outing" scene, there is also no sign of any of the societal challanges that being gay entails. As a story, it feels completely contrived; the characters follow directions they have no exposed motivation for.

Whoever stole the quotes for the box packaging of Rose Troche's Go Fish missed the "isn't" that should have preceeded every one of them. As Troche's directorial debut, I will try to cut her some slack, but despite laboriously telling a pretty straight forward and predictable story, with the sole exception of Guinevere Turner, the acting in this film is pretty bush league, with most of the characters often looking like they are reading their lines off cue cards. The script is underdeveloped, resulting in dialogue that is extremely forced, and there is no flow to the way ideas are introduced, other than by dangling abstract images in front of the camera. If she is trying to get off the hook with the comments made that gay filmmakers should not be held responsible for setting examples for the lifestyle, then why make a film about lesbian relationships? Sure, we get a few brief scenes here and there of women having sex, but even they can't redeem this one. Was this the worst film I have ever seen ? No, that honor still belongs to another lesbian/feminist piece, Ileana Pietrobruno's 1996 Cat Swallows Parakeet and Speaks!, which I caught at its theatrical debut—with my dad no less—but I found Go Fish to be missing all of the elements that make a good film. If there is supposed to be a message here, I certainly couldn't find it, and if there wasn't, it sure appears that one was intended. I think both gay and straight audiences alike will be looking for something with a little more depth to spend their time with. If you are looking for a good film about lesbianism, this isn't it.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Shot on black & white stock for budgetary reasons, the image is quite grainy, though is transfered fairly well. Black levels are fine, and any defects in grayscale are attributable to the source.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The mono audio is presented in both English and Spanish. Nothing outstanding here, though it is entirely serviceable. Dialogue is easily discernable.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: A theatrical trailer is the only extra. Perhaps a directorial commentary could have salvaged this one with an explanation of what exactly she was trying to achieve.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

A low budget, poorly executed film about lesbians. The setup talks about changing the recorded history of lesbianism, by finally exposing their true lifestyles, and what makes them tick. What we have instead are stereotypical and one-dimensional characterisations, a protracted, transparent plot, unbelievable situations and an anticlimatic ending that put this one in the "pass" category. While there were glimmers that this could have had some direction, in the end it is lost to faux artsiness and mediocre performances from the cast. If you are looking for a good film about lesbianism, this isn't it.

Go fish.

 


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