Thursday, October 15th, 2015


Laurel Hester is married to her job simply because she is determined to be the first female detective in her New Jersey police force to be promoted to the role of Lieutenant.  She knows that to make the grade she must act like ‘one of the boys’ which in her case means hiding her sexuality. She is a veteran with 23 years service and so far has managed to keep her personal life private, which is not too tough to do as she doesn’t actually have much going on outside of the Precinct anyway. 
On one of the rare occasions she tries to find herself a girlfriend she goes to all the trouble of crossing into the neighbouring state just to join a women volleyball game in the hope of meeting someone without running into anyone who may know her.  She actually gets lucky first time out and is hit on by Stacie a cute car mechanic who is at least 20 years her junior.  Their first date is awkward to say the least as Laurel has zero courting skills, but for some inexplicable reason, they try again, and within a year they are shacking up and buying a house together in the burbs.

They actually go as far as getting a domestic partnership agreement, but they have it registered at the other end of the State where there is no chance of them being outed. Things finally seem to be going right for Laurel, but then totally out of the blue she is diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Young Stacie goes into complete denial about it, but Laurel being the pragmatic and somewhat hard-nosed cop immediately starts planning for her demise. She knows full well that once she is no longer around that Stacie will be unable to afford the house payments on her own, and so will end up losing her home.  

To safeguard this Laurel asks the County’s Freeholders (like City Counsellors) to officially approve that Stacie can inherit her pension like any other detective’s spouse.  Arrangements such as this have already been incorporated into State Law, but it is however up to the Counties themselves to chose to allow it or not. They opt to go for the latter, and this is where the fight starts.
The year is 2007 and so as it is way before marriage equality, it’s going to be an uphill battle.  Initially Laurel is fighting their refusal on her own, but then her male Detective Partner kicks in with his support even though he cannot persuade any of their colleagues in the Force to back him up.  When the local newspaper carries the story it attracts the attention of a New Jersey gay rights group led by a very loud-mouthed middle aged Jewish man who insists on turning the whole thing into a circus. 
The movie is all based on a true story which has already been the subject of a superb short documentary by Cynthia Wade. This dramatised version of Laurel’s story however gets such heavy-handed treatment here that the end result is essentially a very bad ‘Lifetime TV Movie Of The Week’. It did come with such high expectations because of the movie heavyweights involved, but as so often with LGBT theme stories that have similar pedigrees, the issue is treated so ham-fistedly it just demonstrates a real lack of understanding of the subject matter. 
Last year’s Best Actress Winner Julianne Moore is so sadly miscast as the police detective, and although she delivers some very poignant and emotional scenes as the dying woman pleading for equality, she doesn’t have a single iota of chemistry with Ellen Page as Stacie. There is a infamous myth about lesbians forming relationships with new girlfriends before you can say ‘U-Haul’, but neither Moore or Page gave any real reason at any time as to why we should believe that they were ever remotely in love as they so claimed. 

Page gave a more convincing performance as the feisty butch girl in her own scenes, and equally superb (as always) was the wonderful dour looking Michael Shannon as Laurel’s detective partner who always had a crush on her himself until he eventually discovered that he hadn’t got a ghost of a chance.

Asides from the unconvincing relationship between the two women which was certainly not helped by such a cliche-ridden script by Oscar nominated writer Ron Nyswaner (‘Philadelphia’), there was the inappropriate clownish performance by Steve Carrel as the meddling gay activist which was a dreadfully embarrassing caricature.

The real-life story itself had been an important milestone in gay equality, and not just in New Jersey, and the actions of this police detective were extremely brave and courageous. She, and we, deserved a much better telling of her story than this disappointing wasted opportunity.



Posted by queerguru  at  15:46

Genres:  biopic, lesbian

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