"If These Walls Could Talk 2"
A film review by
Linda Lopez McAlister
"The Women's Show"
Saturday, March 04, 2000

If you don't have access to HBO on your television set, you may want to visit a friend who does. At 9:00 p.m. EST and 8:00 p.m. CST, HBO will be broadcasting "If These Walls Could Talk 2." The original film of that name was an HBO special in 1995 and dealt three different abortion narratives that took place in the same house during three different decades. The new version uses the same format: three short stories about lesbians set in the same house in 1961, 1972, and 2000. Each segment has a different writer and director, but all are women as is much of the rest of the cast.

The 1961 sequence was written and directed by Jane Anderson and stars Vanessa Redgrave as Edith Tree. To the world she's just a "maiden aunt" retired schoolteacher. What she really is, however, is one half of an extremely happy retired couple (her partner, Addy, is played by Marian Seldes) who had known each other since they were girls and taught at the same school for many years. They seem blissfully happy in their retirement, though not immune to the taunts of teenagers and others who suspect they are lesbians. When her partner has a stroke and is taken to the hospital Edith runs up against the sobering realities of how the authorities and families may treat lesbian partners if their partners' wills and intentions are not made clearly known. Redgrave, as you'd expect, is superb in her grief, sorrow, and anger.

1972 was my least favorite of the three segments. It seemed too cliched. It touched all of the predictable bases of the feminist liberation movement but none that moved beyond the expected. So despite Martha Coolidge's competent direction, it had a kind of "paint by the numbers" feel to it, I thought. Michelle Williams plays one of four college age lesbians who live together in the house. They have been active in the Women's Liberation Movement at their university but are now being excluded by the straight women in the movement, afraid of the charges that the whole movement is just a bunch of lesbians. Bummed out by that, they go to an old time lesbian bar where women's lib has not arrived and rigid butch/femme relations are the thing. That's something that zealous lesbian feminists could not abide-how could a liberated woman possibly want to look and dress like a man? They leave, all except our heroine who finds herself attracted to a butch named Amy, played by Chloe Sevigny. (It was fun to see her playing the butch this week after having seen her as the femme in Boys Don't Cry last week. She may have picked up a few pointers from Hilary Swank. Anyway, she makes a very convincing butch. This pairing obviously means trouble among the group.

Perhaps my favorite of the three segments is 2000. It stars Sharon Stone and Ellen DeGeneris and was written and directed by Anne Heche. Stone and DeGeneris are a happy lesbian couple trying desperately to get pregnant. It's a very comic yet realistic treatment of the various things lesbians do to get pregnant without resorting to doing it the old fashioned way. It allows the film to end on a nice up beat with the thought that just as things have gotten better for lesbians over the last thirty years, they will keep on improving.

That's "If These Walls Could Talk 2" on HBO tomorrow night. It's items like this that make the premium channels worth paying for. For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on Women and Film.

Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister. All rights reserved. Please do not reprint or reproduce this review without the permission of the author: mcalister@chuma1.cas.usf.edu