Couch Potato on The Four-Faced Liar, the LLGFF, pigeonholing, and stereotypes

The Four-Faced Liar, Marja Lewis Ryan

Heterosexual? Lesbian? Saysbian? Hasbian?

That's the question I found myself asking about the main character from this film - the closing film for this year's London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, which begins today.

In this movie, five 20-something friends hang out in a New York bar. Pretty blonde Molly (Emily Peck) is involved with Greg (Daniel Carlisle), yet a growing attraction to Greg's best buddy's flatmate Bridget (Marja Lewis Ryan) sees her embarking on a steamy affair.

Will Molly commit to a relationship with Greg (Heterosexual)?

Will she commit to a relationship with Bridget (Lesbian)?

Will she stay with Greg but dream about her affair with Bridget (hasbian)?


Will she hook up with Bridget, but dream about men (saysbian)?

The film's called The Four-Faced Liar - a reference to the New York bar frequented by the friends, but it's also a suitable metaphor for the way so many urban young adults chop and change in the ways they define themselves as they attempt to explore who they are.

It's entertaining enough and mildy amusing, a little disappointing as a festival closing film, but nevertheless, it is perhaps a particularly appropriate one... based on what I'm about to say about the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

You see, I don't know a single non-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) London-dwelling filmlover who is going to the LLGFF, despite it being a milestone 25 years this year. In fact, I don't know any non-LGBT filmlover who's ever attended.

And that's crazy since this Four Faced Liar movie isn't strictly a gay film. OK, the above summary of this movie saw me focusing on one storyline as well as pinning labels on one character, but I was viewing it subjectively as a gay woman.

The Four-Faced Liar, Marje Lewis Ryan, Emily Peck

It's actually a film about a group of young adults who are as yet undefined metrosexuals.

So now I'll summarise it from a more objective standpoint:

Five 20-something friends hang out in a New York bar. Handsome charmer Trip (Todd Kubrak) is in a relationship with Chloe (Liz Osborn), and shares a flat with Bronte-loving womaniser Bridget. He is also best buddies with Greg, who is in a relationship with Molly. Pretty blonde Molly, however, finds herself strangely attracted to Bridget. Meanwhile Trip is cheating on Chloe with another woman.

Very different-sounding film eh? That's what happens with pigeonholing things - you end up alienating or misleading people. And that's what I find problematic with the name London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.

We've almost reached a day now where LGBT characters on mainstream TV just exist alongside heterosexuals - even in peaktime - with no labels being thrown around whatsoever.

So why hasn't cinema followed suit? Is it because these old labels (which, let's face it, are widely used as insults) are alienating and misleading and create some ridiculous separatism?

Let's face it, how often do mainstream movies feature ordinary LGBT characters? It seems to me that those that do tend to be pigeonholed, labelled out of mainstream circulation, and pushed down straight-to-DVD or minority festival roads.

I'll give you an example of how this happens:

Back in the mid-90s I worked as a junior film publicist. While working on one particular movie, I was reprimanded by my manager for promoting it to critics as a 'lesbian romance'.

"Don't use the term lesbian," she said sternly. "It puts people off. Describe it as a magical romance between two women."

She was right of course. I changed the wording and the critics suddenly stopped coming back with the 'oh no, I don't think it's appropriate for our audiences' response. They wanted to know more - they wanted to see it.

It's ridiculous of course, but if simply replacing words like lesbian and gay with something softer, more mainstream, brings us all closer as human beings then I'm all for it.

By the way, that 'lesbian romance' from the 90s is called When Night is Falling and it's getting an airing at this year's LLGFF.

The 25th BFI London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival starts today Thursday 31st March until 6th April. There are still places for some of the screenings and events, but it's mostly fully booked out.

The Four Faced Liar screenings are sold out, but this movie will released on DVD  by TLA Releasing on 11th April.

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Do mainstream movies only feature LGBT stereotypes? On the subject of pigeonholing, check out this news story from earlier this week on the study that's revealed that gays and lesbians are still stereotyped in films.