This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
akervand’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
To say this is a queer coming of age drama is inaccurate. In fact, it's disingenuous to bill this as a queer coming of age story.
Its a coming of age story for a straight weird girl who happens to be befriended by a gay girl in 1960's Oklahoma.
However, their friendship was very superficial. The writer makes you think she is going to set up this great, honest friendship between the two lead characters but doesn't pay it off. The two fight then go their own separate ways to NEVER see each other again by the end of the film. The lesbian doesn't even let the other know if she is alive or not. I would have appreciated at least learning where she went if it were indeed her story. But like I've said, this isn't her story.
The story in the end isn't about the lesbian but her heterosexual best friend who literally ends the movie in her underwear with a dude. And I'm using the term "best friend" very loosely because their friendship wasn't much of one.
Side note: As an actual Oklahoman, those were some terrible accents by most everyone in the cast. The lesbian's walked a fine line of ridiculousness in the beginning before toning it down. Surprisingly, the Australian's accent was one of the best in the whole film that I was shocked to find out she wasn't from North America. Also, Oklahoma is not that dingy and sad people.
I did appreciate that the two leads did not end up together. The setup to the relationship between the two lesbians in the film came so far out of left field that I was not expecting that twist because they maybe had 3 scenes together total in the film. Their first scene together ended awkwardly I assumed because of hidden bruises not hidden queerness. Then, their next scene is boom we are so into each other. Okaaaaay, I get she's a cool drink of water in a desert but they went from 0 to 60 real quick like. However, I ended up appreciating it because it meant the two leads were not together.
Also, what was the whole point of fat shaming Hattie? I spent the whole movie expecting some dramatic reveal that Hattie was pregnant because of the way everyone kept commenting on her weight only for it never to happen. I was highly disappointed to realize it was just yet another example of fat shaming in an industry that doesn't lack for examples.
I also struggled to understand why Malin Akerman agreed to such a non-role for herself. As one of the bigger stars to be in the film, I expected her to have a meatier role in a presumably queer coming of age story where she is the mother of the queer character. Would it have been so difficult to include a scene for her where she has a talk with her daughter like "Honey, I know you are a lesbian but I still love you." I mean in actual queer coming of age stories, it's not always the type of scene you get to see especially in ones set in the 60s. If such a scene had been included, it would have at least justified her taking the role in my eyes. She can do better.
Cinematography wasn't bad but wasn't spectacular either so most of my 2.5 stars are for that and the fact they actually filmed in Oklahoma instead of another filmed-in-Georgia Oklahoma (looking at you Watchmen).
The premise had some potential but the superficial and lackluster thinking of the screenwriter turned it into a middling story. I would be highly surprised to find out the writer was a queer woman because the film does not read that way. I mean you can just tell Portrait of a Lady of on Fire was written by a woman who likes women.
I'm going to go out on a limb and assume most of the reviews saying this is a good film are just trying to score queer cred by rating it so highly. But, this is a barely a good story, let alone a queer story.