GIRL PLAY (2004)
Starring Robin Greenspan, Lacie Harmon, Mink Stole, Dom Deluise, Katherine Randolph, Lauren Maher, Gina DeVivo, Shannon Perez, Domenic Ottersbach, Julie Briggs, Jessica Golden, Lynn A. Henderson, Sarah Bareilles and Katlin Belcher.
Screenplay by Robin Greenspan, Lacie Harmon and Lee Friedlander.
Directed by Lee Friedlander.
Distributed by Wolfe Home Video. 80 minutes. Not Rated.
The theatrical roots of Girl Play (it is based on a play called Real Girls which was written by the stars of the film) are on full display in this film. In fact, it seems to be not so much a movie as a play caught on videotape with only occasional flashbacks and views of the scenes we are being described to cut through the endless chatter.
Essentially Girl Play is just two actresses named Robin Greenspan and Lacie Harmon playing two actresses named Robin Greenspan and Lacie Harmon and ruminating at length about how they fell in love with each other while working on the play.
Robin is a neurotic Jewish woman, unhappily “married” to a girlfriend for six years, but deathly afraid of being alone. Lacie on the other hand is more of a loner, she loves picking up women at bars and has recently broken off a relationship with a lover when she realizes that she’d rather be alone than with her lover. Slowly, but surely, we watch these two long-time platonic friends work together and fight their growing attraction to each other.
The two narrate the whole story – literally almost everything that happens on screen is described in great detail by one or both of them. We learn what was happening through this narration (though a lot of the time we’re watching it, I think we can figure it out), what they were feeling, what the ramifications were, who else knows about it, what they had for lunch that day, who was on last week’s episode of The L-Word.
Many of these soliloquies are extremely well-written. They are funny and clever. They are about a lifestyle that does not get enough exposure. But the speeches go on way too long. In fact, it almost seems like we have two stand-up comediennes (which both of these stars were before their theatrical act) doing dueling monologues. These two were obviously absent from the “show-don’t-tell” class of their screenwriting workshop.
It falls upon our actresses to keep the energy from flagging and they are only sometimes up to the heavy lifting. While in many parts they are perfectly likable, both actresses have bad habits that they tend to fall into. Greenspan has a tendency to go cutely over the top, making sure to mug and go that extra mile to capture the audience’s attention. As a former stand-up, she also has an unfortunate tendency to pause after a joke for the laugh – which might be okay in a little theater but just doesn’t play on screen. Harmon, on the other hand, has a weird way of seeming smugly self-impressed, like she knows what she is doing is brilliant and she hopes you’re smart enough to realize how clever she is. (Oddly for a lesbian love story, Harmon’s attitude occasionally seemed spookily like that of George W. Bush.)
The film never seems to know what it wants to be. Romantic comedy? Check. Long (sometimes almost unending) soliloquies about love and fidelity? It’s there. Cutesy story of a daughter trying to connect with her out-of-touch mother? Yep. Behind-the-scenes theatrical drama? It’s there. One ready-for-Cinemax softcore lesbian scene? Got that too.
There – for no other reason than to be semi-celebrities and to overact even more consistently than our stars – are Dom Deluise (as an old queen of a director) and Mink Stole (as Robin’s over-the-top Jewish mom – she makes Lainie Kazan seem subtle). The two have little to do though, as do Katherine Randolph and Lauren Maher who are very good, but underused, as the spurned exes.
The story of Girl Play is mostly rather interesting. For the most part, the two stars are rather charming and likable hosts. I wish they just had the bravery to allow the story to unfold rather than map out every single step and emotion. There was really no reason to be so married to every word of the stage play. What works onstage doesn’t necessarily take flight on film. (7/05)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2005 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 11, 2005.