Late Bloomers

Limning a love affair between two Middle American women and its impact on the high school where both work, "Late Bloomers" is an eager-to-please comedy longer on good intentions and indie chutzpah than originality or insight. Mounted by Dallas filmmaking siblings Julia and Gretchen Dyer, pic is the sort of low-budget sitcom that wouldn't conceivably make it past local viewings without its lesbian theme.

With:
Dinah Groshardt - Connie Nelson
Carly Lumpkin - Dee Hennigan
Rom Lumpkin - Gary Carter
Val Lumpkin - Lisa Peterson
Val's Boyfriend - Esteban Powell
Rick Musso - Joe Nemmers

Limning a love affair between two Middle American women and its impact on the high school where both work, “Late Bloomers” is an eager-to-please comedy longer on good intentions and indie chutzpah than originality or insight. Mounted by Dallas filmmaking siblings Julia and Gretchen Dyer, pic is the sort of low-budget sitcom that wouldn’t conceivably make it past local viewings without its lesbian theme. Given that niche-friendly angle, theatrical and vid prospects are better, but still iffy.

A geometry teacher and girls’ basketball coach, angular, athletic Dinah (Connie Nelson) has become friends with fellow math teacher Rom (Gary Carter) and his wife, Carly (Dee Hennigan), a plump mother of two and the high school’s secretary. Ironically, the women’s liaison begins when Carly, misinterpreting a mash note actually written by her teenage daughter, Val (Lisa Peterson), accuses Dinah of having an affair with Rom.

That Carly makes such a charge on the flimsiest of evidence gives a foretaste of two recurring problems: the characters’ unintended shallowness, and pic’s tendency to put plot mechanics ahead of human believability. Both flaws grow more evident when it comes to Carly and Dinah’s falling in love. Rather absurdly , this is conveyed almost entirely via a montage of the women playing one-on-one basketball.

Here and after, filmmakers give little sense of what the characters see in each other as romantic partners, and the sexual chemistry between them is virtually nil. Rather than being shown convincing passion, viewers are obliged to assume it, if only as pretext for the plot’s continued unfolding, which has Carly leaving her family to move in with Dinah, in another instance of emotional anomaly.

Instead of reacting with shock, anger or sense of betrayal, Rom simply laughs at the idea of his wife being in love with another woman. Their little boy is similarly nonchalant, where real life might suggest a more confused and anxious response. About the only convincing notes struck here come in the comically rueful embarrassment of Val, and actress Peterson, though somewhat improbable for the role in age and looks, gives pic’s strongest performance as the unnerved teen.

Tale’s latter sections recount the homophobic reaction that hits Dinah and Carly when word of their affair leaks into the community, and their damn-the-torpedoes decision to tie the knot anyway. Since gay marriages are a current topic of national debate, this final twist has a timely edge; it also provides a climactic sequence that, if overlong, is one of pic’s best.

Overall, “Late Bloomers” shows promising talent. There’s a quirky, agreeable wit at work in many bits of staging, oddball secondary characters and mundane but funny details like a student being punished for wearing a Charles Manson T-shirt.

So-so tech contributions include pic’s uniformly bland cinematography and cocktail-lounge score, the latter belatedly rescued by the last-reel appearance of legendary Texas “polkaholics” Brave Combo.

Late Bloomers

Production: A One Mind production. Produced by Gretchen Dyer, Stephen Dyer, Julia Dyer. Executive producers, Jim Jerge, Martha Little. Directed, written by Julia Dyer, Gretchen Dyer.

Crew: Camera (color), Bill Schwarz; editors, Julia Dyer, Gretchen Dyer; music, Ted Pine; production design, Michael McGarty; costume design, Happy Yancey, Mattie O'Neal; associate producers, Dutch Antonisse, Angus Wynne; assistant director, Mike Dempsey. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 19, 1996. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Dinah Groshardt - Connie Nelson
Carly Lumpkin - Dee Hennigan
Rom Lumpkin - Gary Carter
Val Lumpkin - Lisa Peterson
Val's Boyfriend - Esteban Powell
Rick Musso - Joe Nemmers

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