Loving Annabelle (Katherine Brooks, 2006)
A couple of months before I am writing this review, the readers of website afterellen.com named Loving Annabelle one of the ten best lesbian/bi movies ever made. (It came in at #9.) I can’t claim to have seen more than a handful of movies that made the top 50, and I also haven’t seen—though not for lack of trying—the movie this is a remake/reboot/reimagining/whatever the kids are calling it these days of, the 1931 German feature Madchen in Uniform. So I’m coming into this about as pristine as I can, and maybe that’s not the best position from which to review this; I don’t know enough about it, so take that with as much salt as necessary. But with all that said, I’ll tell you that aside from some pacing problems (odd in a film that runs just seventy-five minutes), I found this movie quite enjoyable, with solid performances turned in by the principals, a sufficiently nasty pair of antagonists, and well, if I tell you everything I liked about this movie we’d be getting way into spoiler territory, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.
Plot: Annabelle Tillman (Brooks regular Erin Kelly), the daughter of an outspoken American senator, has been transferred to a strict Catholic all-girls’ school after being thrown out of her last two schools. She immediately butts heads with the headmaster, Mother Immaculata (Ladybugs‘ Ilene Graff), and soon finds herself roped into a tempestuous love/hate relationship with dorm neighbor Cat (Gustine Fudickar in her only screen appearance to date). However, she’s really interested in her English teacher, the unhappily-married Simone Bradley (The Dogwalker‘s Diane Gaidry in her final feature appearance as I write this in January 2013), and launches a campaign to woo her. Can such a romance survive the crossing of so many ethical and religious barriers?
Like many of my favorite romance films, Loving Annabelle is less about the hot, sweaty monkey sex than it is about the tension of the waiting, the chase, the slow burn that happens before anyone hops into bed. You can never be quite sure, even as it becomes obvious that Simone is falling for the fetching Annabelle (and come on, who wouldn’t?), if these two are ever going to get together; Annabelle, being young and brash, isn’t looking at the long-term problems, while Simone is constantly wrestling with them. (“We’re not doing anything wrong,” Annabelle says at one point. In a Catholic school? Oh, if only things were as simple as Annabelle believes them to be.) Brooks, though, isn’t quite as good behind a camera as are directors like Nicole Conn (Cynara: Poetry in Motion) and Christopher Ashley (Jeffrey), especially when it comes to the pacing of the thing. As I said, this movie runs just seventy-five minutes, and there are parts in the first half-hour where things drag. I think those bits are supposed to be character-builders, but we don’t seem to be gaining any insight; maybe one more rewrite of the script was necessary? That’s a minor thing, though; there’s a great deal to like about this movie, and I don’t want to put anyone off watching it simply because it drags in a few spots. This is a solid little romance with two very likable characters, and it’s worth your time as long as the same-sex nature of the romance doesn’t squick you out. ***
Do I make you nervous?