In the last few weeks, more and more movie theaters have opened or expanded their capacity, and all signs point to a welcome return to the cinema. Yet the streaming world continues to be the giant for new LGBTQ releases or features available for the first time.
Strand Releasing, one of the leading distributors of LGBTQ films, has restored and made four of their classics available on demand. That quartet is Adam Salky’s “Dare,” Maria Maggenti’s “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love,” and Richard Day’s tandem of “Girls Will Be Girls” and “Straight-Jacket.”
“Straight-Jacket” is a 2004 comedy in which a movie star (Matt Letscher) marries his secretary Sally (Carrie Preston) so no one will find out he is gay. Preston was part of the play that Richard Day originally staged and was thrilled when she found out he was turning it into a movie. “It’s such a crackling good script,” Preston said. “When Richard asked if I wanted to join, I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ We were able to do it full justice with all those beautiful sets. Richard was really able to capture the theatricality we had onstage.” The actress got to work with her husband Michael Emerson (“Lost”) on the project, and the two also collaborated again on the LGBTQ-themed “Ready? OK!” together.
Preston, who hails from Macon, Georgia, won an Emmy for her work in “The Good Wife” and has been seen in countless movies and TV projects, such as Alan Ball’s “True Blood,” where she played Arlene. Preston vividly recalled the days of “True Blood,” where everyone would watch it on a Sunday night and spend the next morning talking about it with their friends. She is currently seen in another wildly popular series, TBS’ “Claws,” which is in its fourth and final season, and she has long prided herself on being an LGBTQ ally. Her first feature film was “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”
“Girls Will Be Girls” brought together the delicious threesome of Jack Plotnick (Evie Harris), Clinton Leupp (Coco Peru) and Jeffery Roberson (Varla Jean Merman). “It started as a TV pitch,” Day said. “Socially, Jack and I and friends would go watch Coco and Varla in shows. Watching them, I thought about ‘The Golden Girls’ with three drag queens.” He got an emphatic “no” when he pitched it to TV executives, so he made it himself.
Plotnick was doing sketch comedy, and Evie was a character inspired by an infomercial from the ’80s. “She kept on returning — and Richard had this brilliant idea to put all three of us together,” Plotnick recalled. “They bounce off of each other so well.”
Those who love horror films will cherish a new release, “The Retreat.” In it, female couple Renee and Valerie, who are early in their relationship but having some difficulties, decide to spend the week at a remote cabin with friends. When they venture outside of the city, however, their friends are gone, and soon the two women realize they are being hunted by a group of militant extremists determined to exterminate them. The film is directed by Pat Mills (best known for “Guidance” and “The Christmas Setup”) and written by Mills and Alyson Richards, who based this film loosely on her experiences. Richards and Mills have long been horror fans and wanted to make this film LGBTQ positive.
“What I loved about it is the two leads don’t turn on each other,” said Mills. “They help each other. I find in the horror genre the queer characters can turn on each other. This was working against those tropes and showing what it’s really like to be a queer person going into the country.”
The director sees an eerie parallel with the film’s villains and what is going on today.
“With the rose of social media, a lot of people who don’t like us are able to bond together and become stronger as a group,” he said. “We call them trolls, but they are very dangerous, especially in the United States. They are threatened by equality and want to take rights away from other people or get rid of them because they think it’s taking away from theirs.”
While “The Retreat” is Mills’ first horror film, he said he would happily return to the genre.