Sunday, December 7, 2014

Movie Reviews: Desert Hearts and Purple Sea

Desert Hearts
Lesbian/ bi?/ May-Dec

It is 1950s Nevada, and Professor Vivian Bell arrives to get a divorce. She's unsatisfied with her marriage, and feels out of place at the ranch she stays on, she finds herself increasingly drawn to Cay Rivers, an open and self-assured lesbian, and the ranch owner's daughter. The emotions released by their developing intimacy, and Vivian's insecurities about her feelings towards Cay, are played out against a backdrop of rocky landscapes and country and western songs. 

- Written by Neil Lewis

This is a very sweet and touching love story and I loved this film. It’s also totally offbeat and not the usual kind of story outside of it being a lesbian story. For the time period it’s set in, it’s rather incredible that it was made as is. It doesn’t shy away from or act like being a lesbian is anything out of the norm, which I loved. I also thought it interesting to have an out lesbian in a story set in the 50’s. I guess if there was any place in the US that a woman could be somewhat open about being a lesbian in the 50’s, it could be Reno.

Vivien ends up on a ranch in Nevada, staying there until she can get a quickie divorce. It seems her lawyer has a package deal and this is why she’s there vs. a hotel in town. She’s a professor at Columbia University and doesn’t quite click with people at the ranch. She’s older, prim, quiet, rather uptight, thoughtful, and doesn’t really engage too much with the others. I didn’t blame her, they get on her case for putting on airs as it were.

She explains to her lawyer that while her marriage to another professor is OK and they get along, she feels something is missing and wants more out of life. She has no children and states he would not contest the divorce. It seems contradictory to her character as normally it’s a more passionate personality that would go to such huge lengths for a change. So she’s in a transition in her life although not really looking for any kind of excitement.

Cay is a young woman living on the ranch that her father’s long-time lover owns. She’s an out lesbian and is very outgoing. She works in a casino and is just living life, having brief affairs until “the one” shows up. She and Vivien start talking here and there and slowly they form a friendship. Vivien, while a bit embarrassed when she finds out Cay is a lesbian, surprisingly, doesn’t really judge her. And she’s curious about Cay and her life.

Other stuff going on is that the owner of the ranch, Frances, is a tough woman who feels threatened by Vivien and Cay’s relationship. Even though Cay is not her biological daughter, she thinks of her as such and as she sees Cay falling for Vivien, she gets jealous and causes problems. She sees Vivien as an interloper who’s trying to break up her only family.

What’s so lovely about this story is how actress Helen Shaver’s played Vivien. Cay, being young and brash, openly hits on Vivien. She’s attracted to Vivien in a way she’s not been with the others and feels Vivien could be “the one.” Vivien is a bit freaked out by it and keeps Cay at arm’s length even as she starts feeling something for her. Helen Shaver’s portrayal of a woman falling in love with another woman for the first time is amazing. She shows a deeply nuanced vulnerability and shyness when her character finally allows herself to be intimate with Cay. Both actresses made this story so believable and I felt they fell in love in a very natural, deep, and honest way.

One really good thing about this film is that it’s left off with a definite HFN. So often these lesbian movies leave off with some tragedy and sometimes you just want that the couple you rooted for to get together does and you’re left feeling good. And I liked that Vivien is the one who earnestly wants to keep exploring what they have together. So this is not a straight woman briefly falls for a lesbian then goes back to her life.

Definite recommend.

Heat level- 3-4 nude sex scene, beautifully done.

Grade: 5 Stars


"Viola di mare" Purple Sea (Italian)
Lesbian/ historical

Set in 19th century Sicily, Angela and Sara have been friends all their lives. But Angela isn't like other girls, she's fearless, and when she develops feeling for Sara she won't hide them. To maintain the forbidden relationship that blossoms between the two women, Angela disguise herself as a man. The two women challenge the rules of society in order to be together in this lush period romance.

Based on a true story

This was an amazing film. Loved it! It’s just gorgeous all around, with the setting and the women and how their love story develops.

I can’t speak for the truth in historical value, but it seemed spot on. The film starts out with the main characters as children, growing up on a small island in which the only industry is rock mining. Angela’s father is the foreman for all the workers on the Island and he’s a cruel, hard man who rules everyone, including his family, with an iron fist. Her father was pissed off that she was born a girl and has never forgiven her mother or her for that.

Sara is the daughter of a maid for the Baron who owns most of what’s on the island. They grow up playing with each other and the other kids of the quarry workers. Sara and Angela are best friends, always together, but Sara has to go to the mainland with her mother with the Baroness. Angela is shown waiting faithfully for Sara to come back.

Fast forward many years and both women are in their early 20’s. Sara comes back and they start their friendship up again. Only this time, Angela makes it clear pretty quickly that she’s in love with Sara and tells her she will marry her. At first Sara is a bit shocked, but quickly warms to that idea and falls in love with Angela as well.

I have to say that I really felt these two were in love. They have so much passion for each other, particularly Angela, who never wavers for a second.

Unfortunately, these two women are living in a place and time when their love is absolutely unacceptable. When Angela’s father tells her she will be married soon, she confesses she loves Sara and is locked up.

What happens after that is such a twist and I’m not sure it could have actually happened as it did, but the idea that it could and they could get away with it is interesting to think about.

Angela’s mother comes up with the idea to call in a favor from the priest and have Angela’s name changed on her birth certificate to say she’s a male. This allows her and Sara to marry. Although her father goes along with it and makes her now the foreman in his place because she is now a man, of course, many in the village don’t accept it and problems do arise, but they manage.

This is such a passionate story of love between two women. And even though not traditionally having an HEA, it’s still a beautiful, satisfying love story.

Heat level: 4- full on naked sex scenes – not done salaciously though

Rating: 5 Stars

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