Already touted as "the lesbian Big Chill," "Everything Relative" is a disappointingly dull film about the reunion of seven lesbians and one straight woman who went to school together in the 1970s. Though there's definitely a niche market for lesbian fare, Sharon Pollack's feature debut is so amateurishly executed that theatrical release is out of the question, relegating pic to regional and second-tier festivals.

Already touted as “the lesbian Big Chill,” “Everything Relative” is a disappointingly dull, schematically conceived film about the reunion of seven lesbians and one straight woman who went to school together in the 1970s. Though there’s definitely a niche market for lesbian fare, Sharon Pollack’s feature debut is so poorly written and amateurishly executed that theatrical release is out of the question, relegating pic to regional and second-tier festivals.

With numerous reunion tales dating back to “Return of the Secaucus 7″ and at least half a dozen recent lesbian-themed films, the least one should expect from such material is a fresh angle, an interesting p.o.v. that would elevate it above the routine. But “Everything Relative” is a sentimental, overly simplistic meller that charts well-mined territory and covers all the expected issues — coming out, living in a straight world, dealing with AIDS and so on.

The occasion for the reunion is a b’rith for Daniel, the newborn baby of Jewish mother Katie (Stacey Nelkin) and very WASPish companion and “co-mother” Victoria (Monica Bell), whose brother fathered the child. The happy couple met eight years earlier, which is the last time this bunch of women, who were in a political street theater in the late 1970s, got together. As the women arrive one by one, greeted with lengthy hugs and warm kisses, the past of each is disclosed — specifically, the dominant trait that each femme is all too simplistically associated with.

As anticipated, each woman has a chip on her shoulder. Mexican Maria (Olivia Negron), who has just lost her kids in a custody battle to her husband, is seeing her grand amour, Josie (Ellen McLaughlin), a recovering alcoholic, for the first time since walking out on her eight years earlier. The still bruised Josie hasn’t had a serious relationship since then.

Luce (Andrea Weber), a daredevil stunt woman, has been hiding a lot of pain behind a tough facade ever since she caused the death of her lover in a car accident 15 years ago. She arrives with her two-week flame, Candy (Malindi Fickle), a chic corporate yuppie whom Luce sends home as soon as she realizes that Candy doesn’t belong to the group. Candy is cast in the “out-sider” role that Meg Tilly played in “The Big Chill.”

A former hooker who’s now a successful singer in Hollywood, Italian-American Gina (Gabriella Messina) has always had a thing for Luce, which she expresses in continuous sparring and needling. Rounding out the band is Sarah (Carol Schneider), a political activist working for Planned Parenthood who’s happily married but can’t get pregnant by her hubby.

Set over a weekend at Katie’s secluded country house on a Massachusetts lake and in the lesbian-friendly town of Northampton, the film mechanically chronicles the women’s activities from arrival to their emotional farewell; the weekend feels more like a month. Writer-helmer Pollack’s strategy is shamelessly forthright and boring, alternating collective sessions of singing, dancing and swimming with more intimate interactions whose sole purpose seems to be reconciliation of old conflicts and tensions. By the end of the weekend, the lives and loves of the women are conveniently rearranged, with each femme possessing a new and better understanding of her identity and needs.

For this kind of material to work, it needs sharper humor, wittier repartee and faster pacing. The film drags at an elephantine tempo, overextending its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

Pic’s beginning and ending, with a group of Jewish yentas that includes Katie’s grandmother offering their none-too-enlightened views on lesbianism, is embarrassing. Tech credits, particularly lensing and editing, are unpolished.

Everything Relative

Production

A Big Sisters production. Produced, directed, written by Sharon Pollack. Executive producer, Irene Sullivan. Co-producers, Clare Martorana, Mark Hibbard, Zakaela Rachel Othmer, Meredith Paige.

Crew

Camera (color), Othmer; editor, Paige; music, Frank London; sound, Chen Harpaz; associate producer, Patricia Larouziere; casting, Jack Bowdan. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (American Spectrum), Jan. 22, 1996. Running time: 110 MIN.

With

Josie - Ellen McLaughlin
Maria - Olivia Negron
Katie - Stacey Nelkin
Victoria - Monica Bell
Luce - Andrea Weber
Gina - Gabriella Messina
Sarah - Carol Schneider
Candy - Malindi Fickle
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