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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 2.78%
Average: 5.56%
Pretty Bad: 2.78%
Total Crap: 5.56%

1 review, 30 user ratings

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Sordid Lives
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by Thom

"This film breaks us through to the other side"
5 stars

"Life's a bitch", sings Bitsy Mae, a butch ex-con played by Olivia Newton-John in a breakout role, "When we are sorting out our dirty little lives". Ty Williamson(Kirk Grieger) is a stage and soap actor in Los Angeles who has fearfully decided to play gay roles, is debating wether he should go home to his grandmothers funeral. He has come out professionally, but he can't seem to come out to his mother who does not want to believe that he, nor her brother, who she has helped stay locked up in a mental hospital for being a flaming drag queen (fabulously portrayed by Leslie Jordan) is gay. She is a good southern Christian woman and what the Bible says, goes.

This opinion is not shared by everybody in this small Texas town who are busy unravelling a bigger knot. Ty's grandmother died in a motel room she was sharing with her daughter's best friend's husband. The intimate interweaving of this soap opera of a tale becomes more dense and surprisingly, it is the spiritually inspired love and compassion that is the knife that cuts through the dense shroud of pain.

The gay characters are refreshingly real and complex while Noleta, Latrelle and Sissy (played convincingly by Delta Burke, Bonnie Bedelia and Beth Grant) are somewhat caricatured as flashy, trashy small town Texans. Noleta's husband, the aforementioned paramour of Ty's grandmother, is named G.W. (Beau Bridges) and I about died every time they called him "G Dubya".

Sordid Lives is hysterically funny with moments where I had to choke back the tears. Gay people have had to and still have to endure so much oppression, hatred, intolerance and downright cruelty and several moments in the film brought that history to such a fevered pitch that the only thing left to do was cry.

This film honored not only gay culture and the struggles of gay people from small towns to Hollywood, but also the lives of everyone who gets caught up in self-hatred, masochism and neurotic denial because they think those are the qualities of "good" people. Sordid Lives doesn't tie everything up in a simple fairy tale ending. The ending leaves everyone in a place where their lives can begin to heal and perhaps embody some of that unconditional love and acceptance taught by the man they learned about in church that gave them too weird a story to help them deal with the reality of life. Along the way, perhaps we have seen some of our own lives reflected back at us. It's not easy reconciling your past with your present when you are gay and come from a place where you are more apt to be rejected than they are to change their mind about the world. Ty needed 37 therapists to help him deal with the split between where he thought he belonged and his new life as a fugitive in queer LA.

Sordid Lives is a film adaptation of the play that drove audiences and critics to thunderous accollades. Writer/director Del Shores, himself a once-closeted and married Southern Baptist, knows first hand the soul wounds that Christianity can inflict on a gay person who is as much in need of a healthy spiritual life as anyone. At one point in the movie, Ty remarks that he misses God in his life. Ty feels shut out of not only his past and his home, but also the church that provided much needed nourishment when he was growing up. So many important issues are beautifully unwrapped and watching the film is a constant stream of campy fun and heart-rending honesty.

I was floored. Del Shores figured out how to portray the importance of spirit and family in the lives of gay people while neither priveleging gay culture nor denigrating small-town culture but showing both sides of the knife. While exposing deep injustices and shedding light on the darker corners of our hearts, he builds bridges between worlds that open up communication rather than building higher, divisive walls. If Homosexuality is ever going to be a natural, ordinary part of life, then we need more public dialog around the complex issues that prevent healthy modes from being explored. Sordid Lives is another way into these issues and a play that could only be seen by a few thousand can now reach into the very corners where it will do the most good. If you only see one queer film this year, go see this one. But I'm A Cheerleader was great but only an appetizer compared to this main course of a film.

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originally posted: 06/03/01 08:49:13
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User Comments

7/12/07 Ken Every character in this movie is probably someone you know or knew in the past. Wonderful! 5 stars
11/19/04 Larry McClelland One of the funniest and most touching films I have seen. The cast is superb. 5 stars
10/06/04 Ramón Burgos Ruiz Amazing! I've seen this movie nine times and I still laugh and get choked up. Excellent! 5 stars
6/27/04 Phil M. Aficionado It's to Southern blue collar life what Office Space is to the corporate scene 4 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt Takes awhile to get into the over-the-top silliness, but it gets better as it goes along. 3 stars
2/23/04 Kim I love a film with a good twist 5 stars
1/13/04 Ron Hansen Hilarious 5 stars
12/15/03 Looks bad, sounds bad. This is a high school production at best HATED IT HATED IT HATED IT HATED IT HATED IT 1 stars
5/29/03 brentley I was looking forward to seeing it, but was disappointed/bored... 3 stars
10/24/02 jr SO DAMN COOL 5 stars
8/02/02 Daniel First movie in a long time where I laughed out really hard. 5 stars
7/05/02 Doug Shelton Went in unprepared; came out a believer 5 stars
2/25/02 JF One of the funniest movies ever made!!! 5 stars
2/17/02 Clarance eah 2 stars
2/07/02 Andrew Carden WOW! An Excellent Surprise. Great Cast. 5 stars
2/07/02 David States A rave 5 stars
1/23/02 klahane Great, funny and I've seen it twice 5 stars
11/12/01 Awesome Comedy - Great Film Editing 5 stars
9/17/01 Ray Pardue This is the funniest movie I have ever seen! I have family just like them all! 5 stars
9/05/01 PlaynSam Laughed so hard I cried!!! Head'n back to see it a third time. 5 stars
8/25/01 Meredith Hilarious movie that got funnier and funnier! 5 stars
7/21/01 Jesse Miller this film was hilarious! kept me laughing for days! 5 stars
7/12/01 Leonard Jenkins You'll have to see it twice: to hear those missed lines, because of audience laughter ! 5 stars
5/30/01 Chris Young Olivia Newton-John is brilliant!!! 5 stars
5/24/01 David A true laugh riot! I loved this movie. 5 stars
5/23/01 George Helmer Really did not like this film, save your money . Olivia Newton-John keeps picking loosers 1 stars
5/15/01 John Hits the Texas Trash stereotypes dead on!! Hilarious 5 stars
5/12/01 Bobby You must see this! Everyone in the film is awesome and the writing is fantastic! 5 stars
5/06/01 KP Smith Bitingly accurate glimpse of southern white trash - funny as all hell! 5 stars
5/04/01 Martin Lomeli Funniest movie I've seen in years, if not ever! 5 stars
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