A few months ago, I reviewed Girlfriends Films’ first foray into boy-girl content – Voilà (2012), a collaborative effort with director B. Skow. Though the project had some high points, I really didn’t care for it…
…but I was still excited to see where the “Skow for Girlfriends” collaboration would go. Both parties are very well-respected, so maybe they just needed to hit their stride? I was definitely ready to give the line a second chance.
Enter Paint (2013).
Though not the best film I’ve ever seen (and still a little heady), Paint is a marked improvement over Voilà. Dana DeArmond is just delightful, and I feel this effort brings us a few steps closer to where Girlfriends and Skow want this line to be. Let’s consider, shall we…
(pictured: hot box cover, minus one doofusy expression – get yours here)
Here’s the synopsis:
It’s not just complicated. It’s abstract.
Leelee [Chastity Lynn] is an aspiring artist, willing to do whatever it takes, including taking a job with a highly regarded painter named Jenn. Jenn [Dana DeArmond] is an older and wiser, and young Leelee takes full advantage of her mentoring. But Leelee’s no mere starfucker. She has feelings for Jenn; she just doesn’t know how to express them… except in her art. Still, her lusty affection for her boss doesn’t keep her from sleeping with young Hollywood hotshot (and douchebag) Jake Malloy… against her better judgment and on the promise of a major gallery show. Not surprisingly, Malloy ends up treating Leelee as just another sex prop in his strange, fetishistic world. Will Leelee become an art star? Or will she wind up on the canvas like so many wannabes? Will Jenn pick her up and dust her off, or never look back? It’s all here in Paint, a story of tortured love, beautifully framed by B. Skow.
And here’s the trailer – it’s good!! But unfortunately, it’s better than the actual film.
The idea of Paint is wonderful. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young woman struggling with two things: mostly her self-confidence, followed by her sexuality. (There’s a little bit of family in there too, but that relates more to her self-confidence than a stand alone issue.)
As the story reads, Leelee has a lot of artistic promise,* but she’s her own worst critical enemy. More subtly, Leelee is also struggling with her lesbianism – she describes her vagina as being an equal opportunity space for women and men yet doesn’t identify as bisexual. I point this out neither to knock a young person’s emerging sexual awareness stage nor to champion labels in some manner. I point this out more to indicate that, during Paint, Leelee is feeling her way through the types of issues most young people must engage.
One thing Leelee does know though is that she wants to be an artist, hence her apprenticeship with Jenn. Jenn gives exactly zero fucks about anything (e.g. celebrity, shmoozing, marketing, impressing others, etc) besides her art and her own quirky goofy pursuit of happiness. These pursuits get a little chic-scammy at moments… until she meets Leelee. This throws them both for a loop.
It’s a good story about a place we’ve all been in one way or another.
And the performers are great. Dana is beyond perfect as Jenn; and Chastity, though strained at moments, plays an earnest yet fronting hard-ass in her early 20s perfectly. So, a good story with good players… why wasn’t I blown away? I think this has to do with where Paint could have been, verses where it actually ended up.
Unfortunately, Paint was awkward and forced at moments. Plus, some of it didn’t make sense. The whole notion that Leelee and Jenn were immediately attracted to one another when they met prior to the start of the film was unevenly done, as were their mutually bratty revenge hook-ups. And some of the sex just seemed out of tone (though maybe this was intended to convey Leelee’s actual lack of interest in dudes and raunchy dude circus sex).
Part of me feels like I’m being hard on this film, but I think this may be because of what I believe the line is trying to accomplish. To me, it seems like B. Skow and Girlfriends Films are trying to explore those instances wherein the girl gets the girl… even if there’s some guy (read: wider social heteronormativity) getting in the way – those instances of women negotiating their queer sexualities in a very heterosexual world. This is an interesting and exceptionally ambitious dynamic to explore, one that I saw them dancing around both in Paint and Voilà.
With each film, they seem to be getting closer.
*I am so not arty and, to me, abstract splatter paintings look like something a three year old could do. I don’t know how artistically inclined either Dana or Chastity are, but both did a great job of looking absorbed and inspired by painting in this manner. Maybe they convinced me because I know nothing, but I thought they both did well.
(pictured: I don’t get it…)
Buy your copy of Paint and/or watch it now here.
Recommended for: painters and artists, women pushing back in a heterosexist world, Dana DeArmond fans.
Reprinted from PVVOnline.com – Critical Commentary on Adult Production [2010 – 2014]
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