At Outfest LA Film Festival 2022, a number of episodic features were screened that had me absolutely yearning for more. Showings included comedies, dramas, and shows somewhere in between. These five Outfest LA episodic features stand out in particular though because most of them depict unconventional relationships (I mean, one of the shows is literally called Unconventional). While queer representation on-screen and behind it remain a work in progress, particularly in popular media, that doesn’t mean that filmmakers should have to settle for merely the same romantic tropes of every other straight love story. These stories are all outside of the expected and I hope to see more of them all down the road.
In CRAZY, two frenemies have to grapple with their mental health as a mutual ex-girlfriend drives a wedge even further between them. Outfest LA premiered several episodes in a full story arc that highlights the symptoms and fallout of the mental health disorders its characters endure through an electrifying back-and-forth rivalry between its main characters. The dynamics in this show are fun between the characters and it’s a fresh, appreciated depiction of mental illness that doesn’t stigmatize but still lets you acknowledge how frustrating it can be for yourself and even the people around you, but also that it’s not a reason not to be loved either.
Directed by Brad Klipfel and written by Des Moran, Halfies is about six half-siblings who come together for the first time in a long time after their father tells them their oldest brother is dead. It’s much to brief a glimpse at these disparate lives and the ways they intersect. From ultra-religious to an emerging gay identity to a host of other personalities, each of the siblings has an emptiness you can just tell they’re ready to fill through one another, even if the journey to getting there is going to be filled with bad blood and aired grievances. It’s a very creative concept and I would love to be able to see more of this family.
How Not to Be a Junkie
Directed by Michelle Peerali and written by Andrea Metz, How Not to Be a Junkie is about Lex (Ally Ioannides) and her struggle with addiction. It’s very much the beginning of a story, but it’s so well crafted that by the end I was instantly disappointed I wasn’t able to see more. The style of flashing back and forth between the past, watching Lex grow up in a broken home and discover her sexuality, and the present where Lex is in the hospital and being looked down on by the nurses for being a “junkie.” There’s a big This Is Us vibe here as Lex narrates and the emotional turns just come over and over again. I hope that eventually we’ll get to see all of the highs and lows of Lex’s journey to not being a junkie.
Open To It
Open To It was easily one of the funniest entries I watched at Outfest, let alone the funnies Outfest LA episodic feature. The show is about a couple looking to open their relationship up to a third, and is just filled with irreverent sex jokes. It’s not dirty comedy per se, it isn’t designed to make you cringe, it’s just total absurd humor based around sex and a somewhat insecure couple trying to pretend they aren’t. I’d love to see more of this relationship unfold so we can get what I can only imagine would be increasingly ridiculous scenarios that up the awkward and layer the life humor on thick.
Kit Williamson debuted the first several episodes of his new series Unconventional where he and Aubrey Peeples play queer siblings who, with their respective partners, are building an unconventional family. Noah is helping Margot’s (Peeples) partner Eliza (Briana Venskus) get pregnant. Meanwhile, Noah’s husband Dan (James Bland) wants them to adopt a child of their own. The family is a mess, can’t stop having sex with other people, has a history of mental illness, and is just a total blast to watch go throw all of their antics. Filled with guest stars and moments of up, down, and absurdity, I cannot wait until this Outfest LA episodic feature gets a full series release.
Outfest LA Film Festival 2022 is taking place from July 14-24, with many of its films available for a limited time virtually. Follow all of our Outfest LA coverage.