Friday, July 30, 2010

The Kids Are All Right

Last night, I ventured to the Upper East Side to catch one of the summer's biggest movies (well, in my world anyway). And no, I didn't gorge myself on another viewing of Sex and the City 2. This evening's feature was The Kids Are All Right, the new lesbian-family comedy starring Annette Bening and Julian Moore. The film centers on a close-knit, non-traditional family living in sunny California. Bening and Moore play mothers to two children, their oldest, a girl named after Joni Mitchell, about to venture off to college. At the prompting of her younger jock brother, Lazer (played by future heartbreaker Josh Hutcherson), Joni sneaks into her mothers' private papers in order to contact the sperm bank from which she and her brother received half of their chromosomes (imagine, a bank that deals solely in sperm). Following some secretive phone calls, their father is none other than Mark Ruffalo, still looking affably boyish, a restauranteur playboy who also likes to play gardner. Upon meeting their "Dad," the reluctant Joni finds a kindred spirit in her supposed father, while Lazer finds disappointment in his would-be male role model (though to be honest, Annette Bening does a fine a job at that - but more on that later). Before anyone knows it, Ruffalo is having dinner at their home, popping up on their iPhones, and eventually giving Moore's new gardening business its first "gig." The film is funny, witty, lavish in color and detail without being a special-effects epic or mere showcase for spectacle. The film shares a kindred spirit with the mise-en-scéne of fellow female director/writers Nancy Meyers (Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated) and Nora Ephron (Julie and Julia), living in a world of candle-lit silhouettes, traipsing with interesting, personalized costume choices, and frame after frame and sumptuous looking food. This film (and the others mentioned) carry a certain, undeniable feminine look, soft, balanced, the beauty of a quiet blooming flower rather than the booming and stormy energies behind the works of Polanski, Scorsese, etc. (though my own little theory/assumption is delightfully overturned by Kathryn Bigelow's heartbreakingly stark The Hurt Locker).

Bening and Moore are at their finest as the power-lesbian couple, a pairing of two of America's finest and most sensitive actresses. They are also perhaps the two most deserving actresses, yet to win an Oscar (how, how can Hillary Swank have 2 Oscars, and these women have none). Though it's a little early to start playing the Oscar prediction game, one can relish in the fine work of this film's two leading ladies. Bening is stunning as the slightly butch Nic, a gynecologist with a booming career (at times a detriment to her relationship with partner Jules) and a taste for red wine. Looking and acting older than her lover, Bening captures a woman beginning to slowly lose touch with her children and her lover, the family she has worked so hard to build momentarily falling apart around her. One of my favorite and perhaps the most heartbreaking moment in the film occurs when Nic discovers that perhaps a little more than gardening has been happening at sperm-donor Paul's sprawling villa. Bening has been high-powered, high-strung career women for years, often to stunning results (note her two previous Oscar nominations), and while Nic certainly does share a thread with American Beauty's Carolyn or even the title character from Being Julia, Nic seems distinctly more balanced, more loving, less selfish and less controlling than these other women. Moore delights as the slightly loppy, hip Jules, the younger, "lipstick" partner, part stay-at-home Mom and part wandering career woman. While Bening typifies the 21st century power lesbian mother, Moore creates a character that is distinctly womanly, her matter of orientation a secondary characteristic. Her children about to leave the house and with no steady career to draw self-worth from, Jules is curious, restless, looking for some adventure in middle-age (and boy does a rugged looking Mr. Ruffalo give her just that).

This a unique film, and though not a big Hollywood release or popcorn blockbuster, it certainly lives in the mainstream, readily available to both metropolitan and middle America. While most of popular Queer and Gay cinema centers on gay men (Milk, Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia) or men dressing as women (The Birdcage, Two Wong Foo, Priscilla Queen of the Desert), this is a woman's film, a film about two women in love, but more interestingly two women in love with a family. The film does not center on a battle of gay/straight or matters of acceptance or Pride pageantry, but rather tells the story of a modern family, growing and in transition. This is not necessarily a new story (Mom is getting older; the children leave the nest), but is told in a new way, a new setting that continues a greater portion of American family units. While we have not seen this story on the screen before, surely similar situations have happened to the children of gay parents before. The film flips our expectations, the parents gay and the children straight, a feeling of normalcy given to what was once queer. How refreshing to hear a story about homosexual people that does not center on AIDS, hate crimes, or drugged induced club experiences. This film (and surely many others that I have never seen) diversifies the canon of gay works, telling a new story that has certainly been there the entire time. How exciting to live at a time when we can go to the mainstream cinema and watch The Kids Are All Right or tune in to a weekly episode of Modern Family on ABC. This film is funny and brimming with feeling, heartfelt but not requiring too much tissue, a refreshing break from the cymbal crash of traditional summer blockbusters.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Missed the Bus

It happened again. I missed the bus. I knew when the bus was leaving. My e-ticket clearly said which corner to be at, to be there 15 minutes, and to have my reservation number in hand. Somehow I found myself running to the wrong corner hoping the bus was running late, only to find an empty sidewalk devoid of fellow travelers and no sign of the Megabus. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be? Perhaps God was keeping me from some hidden dangers in North Central PA or teaching me a lesson about following directions. Or maybe I am just late everywhere I go? Yesterday, it was my intention to visit my former castmates at the Millbrook Playhouse to check out their current production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Instead, I spent most of the day in my room watching movies. Perhaps my current movie-binge has turned into a real addiction, trapping in my house and separating me from human contact. I'm going to go see a movie tonight (with a friend, in a theater!). This could be a real problem. So, friends and family at the Millbrook Playhouse, I apologize I teased you with a surprise visit. Looks like we will have to wait until you all return to New York or I return next summer for more work. My first missed Megabus experience when my dear friend Matthew and I attempted a venture to Chicago during Spring Break (we eventually made it). At least that time we saw the bus pulling away. I was really looking forward to that bus ride too! I had my book, ready to finish, a magazine, and a play. Having actually made it on the bus once (Aaron and Boston, you are very lucky!), I was planning to take full advantage of their unlimited Wi-Fi and outlets. Instead, I finished my book on the exercise bike at the gym this morning and hauled my backpack and pillow to Midtown for nothing. It's one thing to miss your bus, it's another displeasure to haul your crap to and from Midtown during morning rush hour. Pillow and backpack, I found myself a sweaty, hair-gelled mess as the sun was rising. On my shameful walk back to the subway, I managed to pass two lines of homeless, getting their morning rations from the local churches. I returned home ashamed and afraid. This afternoon I watched The Accused with Jodie Foster and knew exactly how that poor girl felt. So, now I am in New York, the hour not long past when I would returned theatre-d and hungover from Pennsylvania, my phone and camera full of drunken inspired tech-bites. "Well maybe, next year." "Send in the Clown" indeed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bradley From the Broad Meadow, Part 2

A month and a half, give or take. That's how much time I have taken away from this blog. During that time, I completed my contract at the Millbrook Playhouse, made a lot of new friends, and returned to New York to a Heat Wave, a new manager, and a lot wondering as to what my next move will be. I decided, semi-consciously, to take a break from this blog, this vehicle that has chronicled the first part of my New York journey, in part so that I could entirely immerse myself in my PA theatre experience, and in part because I felt fatigued, out of ideas, in a rut. Now, I may be back in New York, but out of the rut I am not sure. Certainly, this is a time of transition for me. As I near my one-year anniversary in the City, I am no longer a newbie, a tourist; I am no longer "trying it out." In the past few weeks, I have been contemplating how long I will stay in New York, what my next move will be. While that previously mentioned move remains to be seen, for the time being it will not be away from New York. After all, I feel I just got here. Having had a year to acclimate to the city and truly dirty hands with "the business," let's see how far I can go, how hard I can push myself to work towards my dreams, to achieve greater artistic vision and clarity, to be a better me, to entrench myself in this city, this business, and the fabulous people I run into. I have been maxxing out my Queens Public Library Card, renting movies both new and old, trying to keep up with what's happening now and what has come before (I have made serious headway on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies List), and searching the stacks for literary inspiration, running the gamut from Carson McCullers to Chelsea Handler (now, that's a English seminar course, I'd like to take). My ears have been searching for new music, both for listening and performing, looking to add songs to both my book and my iPod. After my pre-Tony binge, I am looking to go to the theater again, but hoping to venture off The Great White Way and see what New York's smaller theaters have to offer. I am buying and reading plays, learning the new authors and searching for monologue material. I think it's ironic I recently filled up and cashed in my Drama Bookstore Frequent Customer Card, a month shy of its one year expiration date.

I am in transition. As my family and I move from our time of grief (does grief ever end?), the initial period of shock, of constantly retracing steps, clinging to conversations, looks, texts, we venture out into the world again, somewhat scared, but strangely stronger and at peace. Under the hot summer sun the past months, I have allowed myself to let loose of some of my walls, to let some of the grief and sadness melt away, to surrender to my own profound brokenness. I feel like new skin after the scab has gone away, new and complete, but still fragile, sensitive, and red. While I was in Pennsylvania, I didn't share the tragic story of my sister's death with many people. Still, it's hard to think about, too hard to fathom, to attempt to get my mind around. Though I'll never stop sharing memories of my sister, for now, I prefer to stop the story in December 2009, not January 2010. With the exception of a minor breakdown on our closing weekend, I kept my grief to myself, not out of shame, but because I have chosen to not let this one tragic event define my life ongoing. No doubt it has and will shape, color, and rattle my little world, but I refuse to wallow in my grief, to hold it like a crutch for the rest of my life. In short, I choose to live my life, live the kind of life my sister so generously reveled in every step of the way. Looking ahead, one of my oldest and dearest friends is about to have her first child (now, how did I get so old that people are having babies?), and I couldn't be more thrilled. It is time to celebrate, to rejoice, for new life and new hope.

I am in transition professionally. As I look for work again in the city, I am attempting to challenge myself as a performer, to work as an artist, and to be my own business. How far can I go? How much energy can I put out? How much noise can I make? For now, I am looking for my next big break, but also contemplating creating opportunities of my own. Who knows what could be just beyond the horizon? As for Locale, the near-constant since I have been in New York, I am back to the grind, though the grind has not been near as back breaking. Now, sure, summer and a little vacation definitely help keep the work blues away, but there is one big factor at play - STEFANO FINALLY GOT FUCKING FIRED! While away in hilly PA, the owners sought to it to replace their oily Italian buffoon with a younger, hipper, female manager. Though she and I are still becoming acquainted with one another, I can see things are going to run more smoothly and be more enjoyable for all involved. With some new fancy cocktails and unique beers and cheeses, I feel very at peace with my current employer. Let's hope this feeling finds no end soon, and we can all focus on taking care of customers (people whom for the most part I genuinely enjoy), rather than running from our drunken Italian dictator. As I have seen many of my co-workers come and go, I can only say in summation: Survivor: Locale - Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.

It's good to be back, and I hope to write soon.