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Devotion

Word arrives that Sheila is being considered --"out" lesbian persona included -- for a sitcom vehicle. This thrill, however, quickly turns traumatic. TV producer Bill's (Steve Adams) business partner-cum-wife is none other than Lynn (Cindy Girling), who had freaked out when her "best friend-ship" with Sheila got physical some 14 years earlier.

Word arrives that Sheila is being considered –“out” lesbian persona included — for a sitcom vehicle. This thrill, however, quickly turns traumatic. TV producer Bill’s (Steve Adams) business partner-cum-wife is none other than Lynn (Cindy Girling), who had freaked out when her “best friend-ship” with Sheila got physical some 14 years earlier.

Clunky flashbacks reveal their breakup, which evidently sent shaken, rejected , younger Sheila to the nuthouse. Now Lynn “wants to talk.” Neither of their spouses knows the history behind this, but sense romance afoot.

Tears, shouting matches, ceremonial burning of old photos and an onstage breakdown presage writer-director Mindy Kaplan’s happy ending.

Though attractively cast and interpreted, the central figures here aren’t as complex as they ought to be. Sheila spouts dysfunctionality-of-dykedom shtick in her standup routine, which gets more screen time than necessary. But she doesn’t seem all that vulnerable, nor a survivor of past instability.

Worse, Lynn is an old-school movie lesbian, in the tradition going back to 1928’s “Pandora’s Box.” She skulks around looking chic, repressed and predatory, bursting into occasional heavy-lidded “passion.” It’s impossible to believe Sheila would be reduced to jelly once again by this cornball vamp.

Dialogue is sometimes bright, sometimes drippy. Tech package, while unimaginative, has a pro sheen apt to characters’ upscale lifestyles.

Devotion

(Drama -- Color)

Production: A Northern Arts Entertainment release. A David Mazor and John Lawrence presentation in association with Auntie Em Prods. and Dancing Arrow Prods. Produced by Arlene Battishill. #Directed, written, edited by Mindy Kaplan. Camera (color), Mario Araya; production design, Cathy Robertson; music, Battishill; co-producers, Lia King, Pamela S. Kuri. Reviewed at the Castro Theater, San Francisco, June 16, 1995. (In S.F. Lesbian/Gay Film Festival.) Running time: 123 min. Sheila Caston ... Jan Derbyshire Lynn Webster ... Cindy Girling Julie Rosen ... Kate Twa Katie McRae ... Eileen Barrett Bill Mathews ... Steve Adams The lesbian drama "Devotion" pulls a gender-pref switch on 1940s romantic sudsers in which glamorous, successful, well-heeled characters were thrown into turmoil by the "unburied past." Decently acted and crafted, this first feature lacks the earned emotional weight needed to avoid getting sillier as its emotions grow more agonized. Gay fests, four-walling and video are likeliest outlets. Sheila Caston (Jan Derbyshire) is a standup comic on the way up. Just back from touring, she's got a showcase run at a local club, adoring fans and a seaside Vancouver home shared with artist-gallery owner Julie (Kate Twa), her lover for five years.

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