After a successful run to full houses on the film festival circuit, most notably at the Bentonville Film Festival where it premiered and won the jury award, Gravitas Ventures acquired the North American rights to the coming out comedy Lez Bomb. The film, written, directed, and starring Jenna Laurenzo is now set for a wider theatrical release, giving mainstream audiences around the country the chance to see what worked so well earlier this year at the festivals.
For the past three years, Lauren (Jenna Laurenzo) has shared an apartment with Austin (Brandon Micheal Hall). But they’re not partners. They’re friends. They share the apartment and they split the rent. That’s it. Lauren is in a relationship with Hailey (Caitlin Mehner) and it’s clear that after six months of being together, things are serious. Serious enough for Lauren to decide that it’s time to come clean with her family and finally drop the lez bomb. With Hailey by her side, Lauren intends to let everyone in the family know that she’s gay. And with the holidays approaching when everyone will be together, now’s the perfect time to do it. Sounds like a plan.
Had this been a drama, Lauren’s well-conceived idea to announce what needs to be told would have occurred from the outset. The closeted young woman would have called for everyone’s attention, the family would have listened, Lauren would have taken a deep breath, perhaps she would have held Hailey’s hand for support, then said what she needed to say. But this is a comedy. More specifically, it’s a farcical family comedy. Had things gone the way Lauren planned, there would have been no film. At least, not the one director Laurenzo intended to make. In this one, no one listens.
It’s Thanksgiving. Mom (Deirdre O’Connell) is getting the food ready in the kitchen while waiting for everyone to turn up. “I want grandchildren,” she declares while inspecting the turkey, though probably no one heard her. Lauren’s relatives, like many regular families at a holiday get-together, all speak at the same time. They half-hear things while immediately jumping to conclusions, and everyone has a comment. And they never stick to one topic. Conversations leap from one subject to another at the drop of a new remark. They’re not exactly dysfunctional in the way we often consider the word to mean; they’re maladaptive. In other words, they’re like most normal families: they hear what they want and make assumptions based on what they thought they heard, which basically means they’re always getting the wrong idea.
Trying to let everyone know that she’s in a serious relationship is bad enough when everyone thinks she’s talking about Austin, her roommate, but matters for Lauren spiral out of control when her roommate makes a surprise appearance. “What are you doing here?” Lauren demands. “You’re parents invited me,” Austin replies.
Lez Bomb’s comedy is constructed like a French farce without the revolving doors. People talk of one thing when thought to be talking of something else, assumptions are always wrong, identities are mistaken, and characters lie to cover up things they didn’t mean to say in the first place. And everyone has something to say, usually at the wrong time. And like the best of farces, the truth is revealed in the final segment, even if you have no idea how it’ll get there, and it all ends on an upbeat, positive note. Plus, it’s very funny. But it’s the kind of humor best enjoyed when shared with others in a packed house, the kind where laughter begets laughter.
Like a TV sit-com that needs that studio or canned laughter to add atmosphere and to prompt a viewer when to laugh, in Lez Bomb, the same joke with the same delivery that had a packed film festival house roaring might get a lesser response when seen alone in the home or in a theatre with a small attendance, completely altering the viewer’s perspective. Ask any actor in a live show where on one night, an audience might fall about in continuous laughter, and yet on another night, that same play with the same lines might receive no response at all, making the whole affair seem like a completely different play. Lez Bomb’s style of gentle wit delivered at a fast pace falls into that category.
In fact, Laurenzo’s screenplay has all the framework of a live play where it might work better. Act One would take place at mom and dad’s house, while Act Two, after an intermission, would move the action to the motel that mom and dad own. Watching these characters and all the misunderstandings established in the first half, culminating with everything falling apart then characters finally getting it and making up in the second is pure theatre. It’s as if writer Laurenzo adapted her own original play and expanded it for cinema.
Ironically, the film’s most effective single moment has no humor at all. It’s where Lauren and Hailey’s relationship is on the verge of falling apart. Without the laughs or the mistaken character assumptions, the scene is played for real, and it works extremely well, indicating that as a writer and a filmmaker, comedy may not be Lorenzo’s only genre of storytelling.
What works overall is how easily identifiable the characters are. “Do you think she’s pregnant?” asks mom still under the assumption that her daughter is in a relationship with the roommate. “Where’s my sharpener?” responds dad (Kevin Pollak) holding the kitchen knife. They’re not exactly relatable, they just seem as though they are in the way you view a comedy and say, “That’s just like my family.” And that’s the strength of the film; everyone is likable, played by an equally likable cast with several recognizable faces, including Cloris Leachman, Bruce Dern, and Steve Guttenberg. Though the most likable of all is its lead, Jenna Laurenzo.
There’s a heartfelt speech that Lorenzo’s character, Lauren makes to Hailey in the final moments. If anyone finds themselves in a similar situation and needs to make up but can’t find the right words, memorize Lorenzo’s dialog. It’s perfect and it’ll work every time.
MPAA Rating: NR For VOD: TV-14 Length: 90 Minutes
The film opens in Phoenix Friday, November 9th exclusively at AMC Arizona Center 24.