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"Connie and Carla" - Movie Review

  • Annabelle Robertson Entertainment Critic
  • 2004 4 Apr
  • COMMENTS
"Connie and Carla" - Movie Review

Release Date:  April 16, 2004
Rating:  PG-13 (for thematic elements, sexual humor and drug references)
Genre:  Comedy/Drama/Musical
Run Time: 95 minutes
Director:  Michael Lembeck      
Actors:  Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny, Stephen Spinella, Alec Mapa, Chris Logan

I loved Nia Vardalos in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” so I expected a funny film with her next venture. And, there are moments when the film shines, but unfortunately, “Connie and Carla”’s politically-correct, feel-good message about cross-dressing tends to override everything else.

Connie and Carla (Toni Collette) are embarrassingly bad performers who sing old musicals in hokey costumes for a Chicago airport lounge. Even their boyfriends make fun of them. Unbeknownst to Connie, Carla agrees to keep a “package” for their boss, but when the two women witness a murder (in a scene strangely reminiscent of “Sister Act”), they are forced to flee town. Carla opens the “package,” sending cocaine flying throughout the car and getting them both high. Now the gangsters have two reasons to kill them.

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The gals drive to West Hollywood, where they audition for a gay bar owner who’s looking for a new drag queen act. Suddenly, Connie and Carla, performing as “men dressed as women,” are greeted with gleeful appreciation. They transform the sleepy bar into a popular dinner theatre, add some real drag queens to their act, and become stars. Then Connie develops a crush on Jeff (David Duchovny), a heterosexual. And the gangsters, who have been searching every dinner theatre in the country, have finally tracked them down to L.A.

I grew up attending the theatre in New York and London and listening to the soundtracks of “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma” and “Singing in the Rain,” as well as later favorites like “Evita” and “Cats,” so it was great fun to hear it all again. Vardalos and Collette have strong voices, and audiences will enjoy the music. The film also had some funny situations, like the gangster who becomes so fond of musicals that, by the end of the film, he is singing along. Mostly, however, the humor is “adults only,” like the scene where all the drag queens insist on feeling Connie’s “falsies” while she pretends not to mind.

The most disturbing aspect for Christians will be the film’s overtly pro-homosexual message. Early on, we see a medium shot of two men French-kissing. We hear references to sexual acts and male body parts, as well as allusions to gay clichés, like the scene that imitates “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and the song that Debbie Reynolds, in a campy cameo, sings: “There are worse things I could do, than go with a boy or two.” It’s all turned into a big joke.

The film perpetuates the mythical stereotype that gay men are healthy, happy and wise. It shows none of the HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis, “gay bowel disease” (undiagnosed rectal problems), drug use and alcoholism that is so prevalent in that community. The Journal of Homosexuality, for example, reported that between 25 and 33 percent of homosexuals are alcoholic, compared with 7 to 10 percent of the general population. Nor does the film so much as allude to the rampant promiscuity in the gay community. Just one illustration of this is the fact that a mere 2 percent of homosexuals claim to be monogamous, compared with 83 percent of heterosexuals.

Most of the dialogue takes place among friendly, funny members of the homosexual community who dress in “drag,” wearing women’s clothing, wigs and makeup. A group of them recite a “prayer” to the “Blessed St. Mary of Gay Men” while holding up their (false) breasts. One of the subplots revolves around Duchovny’s character, who is trying to reconcile with Robert, his brother. Although Jeff is engaged to someone else and believes Connie is a gay man, he is strangely attracted to her. This alludes to the popular claim of the gay community that most men have some homosexual tendencies. This myth is further underscored when a character says, “Who is a real man, anymore?”

“For the first time in my life, I like who I am,” Robert says. We are asked to believe this, even though he has been estranged from his family for six years, looks rather miserable (if not sickly) and has no career or job to speak of. In fact, it’s rather odd that Robert and his entire crowd of friends are mysteriously able to support themselves without working. The clear message about cross-dressers, however, is that they would be just fine if only they were not so “persecuted,” so we must love and accept them “the way they are.”

A blatant remake of “Some Like It Hot,” the film distinguishes itself only with a gender-bending twist from “Victor/Victoria.” Vardalos was still credited with an original screenplay, though. Go figure. Overall, the film has a distinct sitcom feel, which isn’t surprising given director Michael Lembeck’s television background.

“Connie and Carla” has some charm, but to enjoy it, you’ve got to buy into the gay/drag queen subculture as one “big happy family.” It will be a huge hit in the gay community. But, because I am aware of the devastation – physical, emotional and spiritual – that this lifestyle brings, I was more saddened than charmed.