More queer films are rolling out just in time to get in the swing of spring.
Here is a rundown of some LGBTQ films coming out in April.
Releasing in select theaters and on demand April 2, “Shiva Baby” has the bisexual college student, Danielle (Rachel Sennott), arriving at a Shiva only to have a series of horrific encounters that make her envy the deceased. She is constantly questioned about her weight, her lack of a boyfriend, and her lack of a job — or even plans post-graduation. She is also taunted by both her former girlfriend Maya (Molly Gordon) — they went to the prom together in high school — and Max (Danny Deferrari), whom Danielle had sex with that morning for money.
Emma Seligman, the writer/director of “Shiva Baby,” delights in making viewers as uncomfortable as Danielle, often employing music that is right out of a horror film for comic effect. The film does generate some laughs with Danielle’s mom (Polly Draper) delivering some amusing one-liners, but most of the tension in the film stems from Danielle struggling to extricate herself from a bad situation. It is almost a relief when she leaves the claustrophobic house and steals a kiss from Maya. Sennott gives a noble performance, and it is hard not to feel for her when she is put in a bad situation, but she is also her own worst enemy.
Director’s Cut of “Mapplethorpe”
Also available on demand on April 2 is the director’s cut of Ondi Timoner’s ambitious 2018 biopic starring Matt Smith as the controversial gay artist. This version of the film is about 12 minutes longer and opens with a new scene of Mapplethorpe, as a child, taking photographs in a church. A later flashback sequence shows the artist’s father, Harry (Mark Moses), shaming his young son when a sexualized image of Christ develops in the darkroom. These added bits are meant to create a deeper sense of Mapplethorpe’s character and his work that pushed boundaries. In addition, there are additional scenes of his interpersonal relationships with his friend and coconspirator, Patti Smith (Marianne Rendón). Starring as Mapplethorpe’s lover, Sam Wagstaff, out actor John Benjamin Hickey gives arguably the film’s best performance. This director’s cut provides some greater context for its subject and may prompt folks to (re)-visit it.
Available on DVD and Digital April 6, “Luz” is an amateur but watchable low-budget romance about Ruben (Ernesto Reyes) and Carlos (Jesse Tayeh), two Latinx men who meet in jail when they are forced to share a cell. Carlos is initially hostile towards Ruben, but before long, the two men are bonding. Eventually, they become lovers. However, their relationship is tested when Carlos is released — much to Ruben’s surprise. Three years later, Ruben gets out of jail and tracks Carlos down. Can the men pick up where they left off? Ruben certainly hopes so. But things are confusing for both guys.
Written and directed by Jon Garcia (“The Falls” trilogy), “Luz” shoehorns a few too many elements into his feature. A storyline involving Jamie (Eduardo Reyes), a prisoner who tries to befriend Ruben, goes nowhere. Likewise, a flashback that depicts Ruben’s relationship with Adriana (Evie Riojas), a trans character, also feels underdeveloped. But the romance that develops between the male leads — and this includes a slightly explicit sex scene — will hold viewers’ attention. The best scenes feature the men being affectionate with each other. (A kiss they share in front of a customer is especially notable). But the story gets a little strained as Ruben plots to reunite with his deaf daughter, Marisa (Alba Larsen) by breaking into his mafia cousin Julio’s (Rega Lupo) home. Viewers will either be all in to see if love wins out, or they will have turned “LUZ” off long before then.
Out April 20 on DVD, “Stone Fruit” has viewers accompanying Manny (Matt Palazzolo) and Russ (Rob Warner) as they travel through wine country. The trip is the couple’s last weekend together; they are filing for divorce after seven years together, five of them married. Russ is a bit of a stick in the mud, correcting Manny on his grammar and sticking to a schedule. In contrast, Manny is unfiltered, saying what often comes to mind — especially when it comes to issues of race. Their interactions lead viewers to want them to work things out, but the addition of Byron (Thomas Hobson), who joins them for a day (and a threesome) suggests that there are some unreconcilable differences. “Stone Fruit” is a talky film, but hearing Manny and Russ speak about falling in and out of love, airing their grievances, and communicating openly and honesty is mostly compelling.
Palazzolo is wonderful and charismatic as Manny, and Warner makes a Russ a good foil. They do have a certain chemistry together. In support, Hobson is charming in his handful of scenes. Yet, “Stone Fruit” is a wistful drama, both in terms of subject matter and because, sadly, actor Matt Palazzolo died after filming. The film is worth seeing because it provides a terrific showcase for the late actor’s talents.