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After the Rush

Late Bloomers
High-School Sweethearts: Connie Nelson (left) and Dee Hennigan discover that there's more to life than basketball in 'Late Bloomers.

Julia Dyer's lesbian comedy 'Late Bloomers' bucks the trend

By Richard von Busack

WOULD-BE SCREENWRITER Glen David Gold, writing in the Aug. 8 issue of the East Bay Express, discussed his own lack of luck trying to sell a film about lesbians after the rush to lesbian movies had begun. Gold noted that in the eyes of producers "lesbians were trendy, then passé, then retro, then dead, dead, dead." The post­lesbian rush Late Bloomers seems all the better for having had to buck this cyclical logic. (Not to mention having had to buck a somewhat dusty title.)

Women's high-school basketball coach Dinah Groshardt (the Shirley MacLaine­like Connie Nelson) knows as little about love as her pet turtles do, but she finds herself attracted to Carly Lumpkin (the Stella Stevens­like Dee Hennigan), the neglected wife of one of her fellow teachers. The two carry on a fervent affair that comes to the attention of almost everyone in town. Director Julia Dyer, working from a script by her sister, Gretchen Dyer, faces the problem that plagues any love story, gay or straight: namely, a strong third act. In this last section, Late Bloomers limps, and only a few live numbers by Brave Combo get the film energized again.

Nevertheless, the fine, unmannered, unselfconscious acting of the two leads--who have a great deal of chemistry between them--make this a sweet, tart story. In a strong debut, director Dyer handles the problematic lovemaking scenes with intelligence (the physical side of Dinah and Carly's love is indicated with shadows on a wall and with a nude one-on-one basketball game by moonlight). Lisa Peterson's touching portrayal of Carly's gawky daughter, Val, serves two functions: not only to show the pain of her parents' breakup but also to demonstrate that rather than the teachers influencing the students with their behavior, it's the other way around. The students are all over each other, and this public lust rouses Dinah and Carly to notice that something's missing in their celibate lives. In short, Late Bloomers isn't just another too-sweet lesbian romance. The film is a comedy first and foremost, and the Dyers know the best way to get an audience sniffling at the end is to have them laughing by the middle.

Late Bloomers (104 min.), directed by Julia Dyer, written by Gretchen Dyer, photographed by Bill Schwarz and starring Connie Nelson and Dee Hennigan.

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From the August 21-27, 1997 issue of Metro.

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