For all of its outward appearances as a raw work of lesbian outlaw expression, Harry Dodge and Silas Warner’s “By Hook or by Crook” is really a corny old romance at heart, with almost all the attendant cliches intact. Pic’s obvious derivations include the Jean Genet tradition of the gay criminal as society’s ultimate outsider, Kerouac road stories, “Boys Don’t Cry” and, in several unfortunate instances, John Cassavetes’ improvised noodlings. No movie like this about friendship between two young lesbians and their various adventures, punctuated with laissez-faire jump-cutting, should be this boring, and despite Outfest prizes (screenplay, audience award) that may say more about the fest than the film, prospects beyond friendly fests seem dim.
Shy (Howard) leaves her aimless life in Kansas and, armed with dreams of robbing banks but no gun, she hitchhikes to Frisco, where she resumes her aimlessness. Rescuing Valentine (Dodge) from a nighttime beating, Shy eventually bonds with the mentally disabled misfit, who’s searching for her birth mom. But between Shy’s innumerable stupid decisions and mumbled dialogue, this is a spree with no vitality or resonance.