Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Lesbian Film
Short Take: OWLS = Older Wiser Lesbians
Alternate Titles:
Year: 2010
Duration: 66 min
Language: USA/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Cheryl Dunye
Writer: Sarah Schulman, Cheryl Dunye
Starring: V.S. Brodie, Skyler Cooper, Cheryl Dunye, Deak Evgenikos, Lisa Gornick, Guinevere Turner

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OwlsCheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman, Stranger Inside), Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, The L Word), Lisa Gornick (Do I Love You?, Tick Tock Lullaby)  and V.S. Brodie (Go Fish)  – names and faces we know from lesbian film over the past twenty years, and all older, wiser lesbians (OWLS) – plus newer names Deak Evgenikos (Itty Bitty Titty Committee) and Skyler Cooper (Butch Mystique), along with novelist Sarah Schulman, have put together a film that speaks to lesbians over 40, with a noteworthy perspective for younger women as well. It addresses what Dunye calls, “the huge gaps in queer culture between those who fought to create our identities and those who simply live it.”

For many of us of a certain age, our youth was spent in the streets demanding our rights, volunteering innumerable hours to political organizations, working towards a feminist ideal. Filmmakers like Dunye used their films to address issues like lesbian identity, race and more. Now, in the light of the successes of previous generations – more civil liberties, more social acceptance – and a younger generation who doesn’t care about the hard work that went into making life easier for the LGBTQ community today, what’s a lesbian, almost-middle-age, filmmaker to do?

The Owls is a product of that angst, hooking on these intergenerational issues, as well as the relatively new take on gender politics (or even gender labels themselves). The film does this by telling the story of two 40-something lesbian couples (Dunye and Gornick, and Brodie and Turner) who are forced to deal with a younger, challenging house guest (Cooper).

What makes it more unique is that all of the actors and the writer break the fourth wall. In the middle of what first looks like a movie about a murder, the house guest story stops and the characters speak directly to the screen. We hear about their motivations and anxieties. Then, breaking yet another wall, the actors themselves address moviegoers and talk about their characters and their individual takes on the issues.

By itself, the murder plot is not that interesting. The rest of the film is quite a unique presentation that makes this film a break from traditional linear storytelling and one of the most thought provoking lesbian films I have seen in recent years. Your mileage may vary. (AB)