Three couples over three different decades, are bonded by the depth of their passions, their unconventional love, and a house that might offer up their stories If These Walls Could Talk 2.
An elderly woman (Vanessa Redgrave) “widowed” when her companion of 50 years dies in 1961, finds herself alone and unprotected as the “in-laws” move in to cast her out.
In 1972, a feminist coed (Michelle Williams) finds that sexual politics take a back-seat when a boyish girl (Chloe Sevigny) attempts to seduce her.
And in 2000, a couple (Ellen DeGeneres and Sharon Stone) with almost everything that two women can have, want the one thing they can’t have – unless something more than fate intervenes.
eyelights: the cast. the stories. the issues being addresses. the production.
eyesores: Natasha Lyonne’s performance.
“Hold on tighter. This isn’t about sex, it’s about not falling off.”
‘If These Walls Could Talk 2’ is a set of three stories about American lesbian couples from different eras. This original HBO production was first broadcast in 2000, four years after its predecessor, which revolved around abortion.
The original film starred Cher, Demi Moore and Sissy Spacek, each big names in their own rights. But this telefilm brings twice as many: Ellen DeGeneres, Vanessa Redgrave, Marian Seldes, Chloë Sevigny, Sharon Stone and Michelle Williams.
What’s different about this one is that each segment is written by women and each one has a different female director at the helm: Jane Anderson, Martha Coolidge and Anne Heche. It’s a completely female-driven production, which is a rare treat.
1. 1961: Edith and Abby are an aging, closeted couple who’ve lived together for thirty years. From our perspective, their relationship is tender, touching, and their bond couldn’t possibly seem stronger. From an outsider’s perspective, though, it looks like just a committed friendship.
One day, however, Abby has a heart attack. She passes away at the hospital, while Edith waits excluded since she’s not family – even though she’s her friend, even though she brought Edith in. She’s not even allowed to visit, and the staff don’t give her any updates on Edith’s health.
Then comes the aftermath.
Abby’s nephew is considered more legitimate than Edith, even though he barely knew her; he is in charge of the funeral arrangements and he inherits everything because the house was in Abby’s name – even though Edith shared all the costs. For all intents and purposes, she’s just a roommate.
In fact, Edith had to prepare for the nephew’s arrival by removing decades of their pictures together, and resettled in the guest room to prevent anyone from finding out about them. And so she has to let his family take ownership of the place, go through their things, and even consider selling the house.
The segment touches on a closeted bereaved’s isolation, of their real feelings not being acknowledged. It’s heartbreaking to see Edith’s loss as everything is taken away from her in one blow, without any consideration for her. Her wails of pain, the emotional torture she’s experiencing, is gutting.
Vanessa Redgrave is absolutely AMAZING as Edith; she lends her such dignity (and won awards for it). Paul Giamatti shows how conflicted the nephew is, empathizing with her, but facing a financial burden over the inheritance tax that he just can’t avoid. And Elizabeth Perkins is excellent as his self-obsessed spouse. 8.25
2. 1972: Linda and her three lesbian friends live together in a suburban house. One day, they get ejected from the campus feminist group they started because the group is losing backing from the university due to its lesbian connection. The group wants to fight one issue at a time: first feminism, then lesbianism.
So they go to Georgette’s, a lesbian bar, to drink their sorrows away. They don’t react well to the women in drag, thinking that they’ve been fighting against patriarchy and that this is a step backwards. But Linda meets Amy at the bar and they hit it off, despite the latter’s very butch attire and demeanour.
Linda stays behind after her friends leave and dances with Amy. They are smitten with each other. But she struggles with the acceptance of her friends, who don’t let Amy into their circle and even mock her. This doesn’t stop them: Although they initially struggle, they’re both fighters and they choose to fight.
Williams is sweet as Linda and Chloë Sevigny is appropriately macho as Amy, kind of like Ryan Gosling cool/smooth. The politics are very interesting, how it’s all about factions, degrees of prejudice. Interestingly, this is the sexiest of the shorts, but it’s also the lesser of them for some reason. 7.75
3. 2000: Kal and Fran are trying to get pregnant and are finding it difficult. They talk about all the complications of finding a good donor, and one who doesn’t want to be involved. They also discuss adoption, which is difficult for gays. Kal struggles with the idea of not being able to get Fran pregnant herself.
But they try to get pregnant. And try. And try.
I quite enjoyed this one, because of all the discussions. I love that they question gender roles, that they discuss the notion that a girl could love sports more than a boy could. They also talk about the discrimination that their kid might face. Thankfully, the humour in this one balances the anxiety that they feel.
Ellen Degeneres is pretty good as Kal; she plays it quite natural and, thus, it’s convincing. And Sharon Stone is lovely as the light-headed Fran, even though that seems out of character. They made for a nice combo, played off of each other well and, surprisingly, there’s a sexy scene between the two. Yum.
It’s a great way to end the set. 8.0
All in all, it’s a pretty nice production that looks and feels contextually appropriate; the news footage pertaining to the women and lesbian’s lib movement ties each together well, as does its excellent, well-sourced, soundtrack.
Like ‘If These Walls Could Talk’, each of these stories apparently take place in the same house, albeit at different times. I hadn’t noticed one bit, even though I’ve now watched it twice. Well, now I’ve got a reason to watch it again.
Not that I need one. ‘If These Walls Could Talk 2’ is an excellent triptych; I’d watch it anytime. And I’m more curious than ever to see the first one, even though it was put together by completely different people. It could still be as good.
Date of viewing: February 14, 2016