First up, it was a total honour to be at an event celebrating LGBT history month, sharing a room with loads of other awesome people, let alone to be asked to speak. This was somewhat of a personal challenge for me, given that I hate public speaking. I’m told I managed to say some words that sounded ok, despite the following waves of crushing self doubt. If yr interested, some of those words are here addictedtofresnonotes (pdf).
So then we come to the film itself, and the following is a review of sorts and contains spoilers!
Despite loving Jamie Babbit’s earlier films, the 1999 queer classic ‘But I’m A Cheerleader’ and the 2007 ‘Itty Bitty Titty Committee’ the 2015 release of ‘Addicted To Fresno’ was severely lacking.
Reading about the film in advance, I thought it sounded pretty good – Natasha Lyonne check, Aubrey Plaza check, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, Judy Greer, Alison Tollman.. and it gets off to a good start with some darkly witty sibling dynamics and an original feeling storyline but then come the rape jokes, followed by more rape jokes, oh and some more rape jokes. Throughout the film, the trivialisation of rape continues until it’s beyond cringeworthy, terrible poor taste. At no point does this line of supposed humour add (nor should it ever add) anything satirical or clever or amusing to the script. Even the fairly commonly used advice to call ‘fire’ in the instance of a sexual attack to get assistance, gets overshadowed completely by the mockery in the script. The presence of offensive and tactless writing felt uncomfortable and perhaps surprising given the queer female director, the queer female producer (Babbit’s former partner) and queer female screenplay writer (Babbit’s current partner). The clue with the latter however, is that as well as being behind the amaaaazing Portlandia, they used to write for South Park, probably where this kind of non wit is better suited.
That aside, you try and awkwardly continue watching the film, there’s a Sleater Kinney song on the soundtrack, amusing scenes with dildos, a (standard) Clea DuVall cameo interspersed with a kind of hapless approach to survival and retribution in the storyline that could almost be endearing. But then in more poor taste comes a Bar Mitzvah performance with a 13 year old boy rapping about the holocaust and it all kind of lost me, again, more South Park than edgy queer cinema.
I left the screening feeling disappointed and a bit dirty, and I’m definitely not talking about the dildos or blow job advice.