Outfest LA Film Festival 2022 is off to a fantastic start with a wide variety of films already featuring at the festival. These five movies range from dramatic to bizarre to hilarious, personal to universal, and musical to black and white to nearly wordless. The creative expressions and facets of queerness are among the strongest so far and offer a glimpse at the diversity of the festival’s over 200 pieces of content.
Oh my. Just, oh my. What a gorgeous film Chrissy Judy is. It’s easily one of my favorite Outfest LA films so far. Written and directed by star Todd Flaherty, Judy’s journey is from his best friendship with Chrissy (Wyatt Fenner), the kind of intimacy unique to two gay men, to life when that friendship finds itself ending. My checkered history of friendships always makes me extra sensitive to stories about friendships drifting or crumbling. It’s telegraphed from the beginning the way that Chrissy feels about Judy. Which makes the slow march towards the inevitable all the more painful. The film, presented in black and white, begins nearly like an old-timey farse in how its blends music and minimal dialogue to almost comedic effect. As things unfold though, it becomes quite clearly a tense drama, still with levity, but driven with anguish. I adore Judy in his every phase; he’s supremely loveable and his journey just as relatable. Even at his lowest, there is no point you’re not rooting for him. If you’re keen on watching something that brings you both remorse for how you’ve treated previous relationships, cringe at the person you were at the time, and hope for the person you’ve yet to become, Chrissy Judy is a sublime film for all of that at once.
I love a good retelling of a myth. Even more than that, I love a reinvention of one. Phea, written and directed by Rocky Palladino takes the story of Orpheus and Eurydice and puts a devastating spin on it. Sherika Sherard stars as Phea, a struggling musician whose relationship is on the line just as badly as her career prospects. When Justine, her partner, Katarína Andrejcová stops returning her calls, Phea goes looking for her only to find a trafficking ring that Justine is at the center of. The story is unambiguous as Phea gets sucked into the traffickers’ grasps, with turns that are more upsetting than shocking and a drive to rescue Justine that doesn’t feal realistic but doesn’t need to necessarily either. The question that’s constantly lingering is whether Phea will be able to look back at her Eurydice one last time and save her, or will she be ripped away from her in the end? The icing on this great film is all of the original music written and performed by Sherard. She was found by director Palladino busking on the street and her turn in this film is remarkable from both the emotional depth of her acting and her musical prowess.
Please Baby Please
In this outlandish greaser tale of love and violence, director Amanda Kramer delivers a sexual awakening as bizarre and confounding as gender and sexuality really are. It’s total nonsense, but yet, it is so poignant. I was repulsed yet couldn’t look away; the level of oddity is so high yet it really does feel rather simple ultimately. Basically, Please Baby Please is about a married couple who have a run-in with a gang that leads to a series of encounters and conversations that raise all kinds of questions between them about genre and sexuality. It’s sort of a musical, almost, kind of, but not really. It’s funny because it’s weird but doesn’t play for terribly many jokes. Frankly, the entire experience is rather indescribably and it’s best just witnessed for yourself. It’s more than worth the while for Andrea Riseborough‘s equally sexy and grotesque performance as Suze alone.
Ethical non-monogamy is only ethical when there’s clear and consistent communication and consent among all parties. Three-Headed Beast by Fernando Andrés and Tyler Rugh delves into the tricky realm of what constitutes unenthusiastic consent and when consent is only given out of guilt or pressure. Three-Headed Beast is one of my early standout Outfest LA films, more than any other reason, for how it literally shows this non-communication by having no dialogue save for specific key moments. Most of the only sounds that escape the three main characters’ mouths are during sex, which further exemplifies the lack of healthy communication. It’s a strong film, and despite this theme, it does actually present non-monogamy in a positive light ultimately.
Scout Durwood is absolutely hilarious in her musical film Youtopia. She gets broken up with by her girlfriend, declares herself a sovereign nation, and a few musical numbers later, she’s got a well-established cult. The movie’s low-budget look does wonders to play up the campiness of both the concept and the format. The movie is interspersed with quite odd but terribly catchy and satisfying songs, each essentially done as a separate music video outside of but concurrent to the ongoing plot. There are zero misses in the whole lot of them, ranging from sex ABCs to dog motherhood. It’s rounded out by an equally funny cast and an even more outlandish side-plot that ties everything in this socially conscious/socially critical movie.
Outfest LA Film Festival 2022 is taking place from July 14-24 with many if its films available for a limited time virtually. Follow all of our Outfest LA coverage.