A critique of the film Lost and Delirious from sexual minorities’ perspective Essay Introduction
Bringing forth the intensity of her French-language movies but still maintaining aspects of conventional English movies, Director Lea Pool’s maiden English language venture represents a sound, if somewhat cloyingly romantic, over-earnest film. While the film could be criticized for being overwrought with growth, discovery, adolescent love and passion in the confines of a girls’ residential school, its overall impact is bolstered by commendable lead performance from Piper Perabo, which, alongside the film’s erotic moments, should help win new audiences. Adapted by Canadian screenwriter Judith Thompson from Susan Swan’s novel “The Wives of Bath,” the movie is Lea Pool’s first experience working from a script she didn’t write herself. While most of the successful lesbian movies of previous years, including “Go Fish,” “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love” and “But I’m a Cheerleader,” taking a light-hearted approach, Lost and Delirious marks a return to more sober Sapphic drama of the years gone by. Lost and Delirious, released in 2001, stars two young actresses in lead roles – Piper Perabo (as Pauline Oster) and Jessica Pare (as Victoria Moller).
The two girls are roommates in a modern and liberal residential school. The film begins with Mischa Barton (as Mary Bradford) joining the school. She was to become the third member of the hostel room already shared by Pauline and Victoria. Mary (nickname ‘Mouse’) confronts a shock of sorts early next morning, when she discovers that her roommates are not just friends, but a couple. To her credit, Mary displays tact and maturity in handling this delicate situation.
By not showing any discomfort while interacting with her room-mates, Mary acquires their confidence and friendship. While Mary was disconcerted at first, she soon gets used to the groans, whispers and cries of pleasure emanating from the bed at the other side of the room. The director presents the feelings of love between the two teenage girls in a realistic manner. As can be expected from adolescents, they display a lot of passion and affection for one another. This harmonious existence, although surreptitious, comes to an abrupt end, when Victoria’s younger sister barges into their room, when they are both sharing the same bed and lying naked underneath the sheets.
The hard-kept secret soon spreads like fire across the campus and the couple attracts strange looks and hurtful comments wherever they go.
A critique of the film Lost and Delirious from sexual minorities’ perspective Essay Body Paragraphs
Victoria, who comes from a religious and conservative family, is scared of the consequences when news of her homosexuality reaches her father. She’s fine with being perceived a rebel, but being outcast from the securities provided by mainstream society isn’t something she would accept. So she hastily breaks-up with Paulie and finds a boyfriend in order to convince everyone that she’s straight. Paulie, on the other hand, is totally flummoxed by this change and this drives her toward the deep end. In behavior that is both symbolic and practical, she is shown fencing until she’s exhausted, and devoting her energies to the predatory spirit of her pet raptor.
Even during classes, she expresses her anguish and disappointment, though passionate recitals of Shakespearean sonnets, apparently addressed to her classmate Victoria. It now becomes a little predictable where the plot is headed. The director’s sensitive handling of her young characters more than compensates for the familiar material and the occasional slipups, like the gnomic pronouncements of the school’s Native American gardener Joe. When Victoria sets out to prove to her school that she is a regular heterosexual girl, she accomplishes this through two things; first a fast-track romance with a school-mate called Jake along with abrupt severing of intimate contact with Pauline. The latter devastates Pauline completely.
Pauline, who comes from a dysfunctional family background and had not been loved by anyone else before, is completely shattered by this rude and sudden indifference shown by Victoria. With every rebuke from Victoria, Pauline obsession only gets stronger. In a moment of utter desperation, she even asks Mary to cut off her (Pauline’s) hair, so that she will look like a boy and may hence win back Victoria. Pauline also displays volatile behavioral problems with her peers and her teachers, causing them much concern. The film shows the steady decline in Pauline’s state of mind in the context of her pet raptor’s domestication.
With movie ends on a tragic note, with Pauline’s irrepressible obsession for Victoria, taking the former to abyss. Although this movie follows the line of numerous boarding school sex-dramas that have preceded it, director Lea Pool offers something unique to the audience. While it is nearly fifty years since the civil rights movement and the feminist movement in the United States, it is a sad reality that sexual minorities are still condemned for abuse and ostracized by peers and parents alike. While the headmistress of the school (who is rumored to be a lesbian herself) shows some empathy and understanding of Pauline’s turmoil, a majority of her mates make fun of her. From the director’s point of view, the approach has been a compassionate one.
It is as if, the film maker is attempting to bring awareness among the audience about the difficulties faced by sexual minorities in twenty first century America. The director has to be commended for her detailed and passionate portrayal of homosexuality. An interesting aspect of the film is its depiction of gender stereotypes, which comes across as very rigid. For instance, the film illustrates how the parents, school administrators, other students and the society at large erect invisible boundaries on adolescent sexual freedom. In other words, teenage girls in the supposedly modern educational institution were punished for deviating outside of their designated stereotypes. Such restrictions are applicable to boys as well as girls, as is evident from the film’s narrative. It is also interesting to note that the Headmistress Miss Vaughn and teacher Miss Bannet show admirable patience and understanding when dealing with Paulie’s frequent outbursts. Also, these ladies don’t hold any stereotypical expectations of the girls, with regard to their behavior, sexual orientation, etc. Miss Vaughn tolerates Paulie’s outbursts because she is cognizant of her situation and how she is struggling with feelings of not belonging, not being loved and her intense sexual feelings for Victoria. Having said that, Miss Vaughn and Miss Bannet, were also not spared from gossip, as their closeness is perceived by the girls as arising out of their homosexuality. Hence, there are plenty of instances in the movie where we see negative stereotyping of the homosexual girls. There are some other merits attached to the film’s cinematography. For example, the film vividly and accurately illustrates how the home, school and the larger society imposes implicit restrictions on sexual expression. In other words, young girls in the residential school were expected to follow stereotypical roles that are decided for them beforehand. Whenever, they deviate from predefined cultural norm, they encounter huge challenges. This doesn’t apply only to the girls. Even the boys who befriend Victoria in the movie are shown to be heterosexual, suggesting that this particular sexual orientation is the default one. That these implicit social rules are conflicting is a suitable cinematic juxtaposition, as neatly demonstrated by the scene of the formal dance on Parents Day, where the girls’ behavior differs completely when they dance with adults as when they dance with their peers. Also, the viewer gets a feeling that the girls are putting up an artificial show just in order to please their parents and conform to social norms, consistent with their gender stereotypes. Hence, it can be asserted that the film accurately portrays the problems posed by such rigid concepts as gender stereotypes. It may also be said that if movies such as this are seen by more straight people, then the number of instances of gender and sexual stereotyping will reduce. But sadly, for lesbians and other sexual minorities, it is a poignant reminder that remedy for such rigid stereotyping has not yet arrived. To extend upon gender stereotyping seen in the film, let us take a close look at some of the reactions of other support characters toward Pauline and Victoria, after their homosexuality comes out in the open. Through all this emotional chaos that both girls go through, it is Mary who lends a supporting hand to the troubled girls. Displaying a maturity and understanding that is beyond her age, Mary serves as the confidante for both Victoria and Pauline at a time of high drama. This kindness on part of Mary is all the more admirable given her own issues with her father. With Pauline’s mental stability ever on the decline, she does everything she can to redeem her friend. Victoria, on the other hand, treats the break-up in a matter of fact way, which comes across as cruel. Nevertheless, she is better able to adapt to the changed circumstances; although her sudden embrace of heterosexuality seemingly lacks credibility. The character of gardener Joe Menzeis (played by Graham Greene) also shows some understanding of the situation and tactfully advices and consoles Mary. He also does not seem to be a judgmental sort of person. Baring one particular girl, who mentions to Pauline that “So what, this is twenty first century!” is the exception to the rule. Most of her peers, sadly, seem not to have culturally oriented themselves with the times they live in and still hold on to a biased and distorted perception of homosexuality.