Review by Tom Avila
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/18/2009, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
AFTER AN unexpected visit by her mother causes her to literally force her naked girlfriend into one, Felicia decides it’s time to come out of the closet. But coming out on her own isn’t enough. Felicia thinks it’s time for all the women in her close circle of friends to come out as lesbians as well.
Convenient that she should have so many.
There is a temptation to cast director Faith Trimmel’s Family as a lesbian Waiting to Exhale, despite the howls of protest this might cause: ”Will there ever be a time when someone can make a film about a close group of African-American women without it being compared to Waiting to Exhale?”
Yes. But this isn’t that time.
As with Exhale, Trimmel has gathered together a strong ensemble cast of talented African-American actors. She has carefully developed a collection of distinct plotlines — from the WNBA star who is a player on and off the court to the young woman who is struggling to reconcile her faith and her sexuality — that are believably intertwined with one another.
And, though not to such a degree as to undo the strong acting and filmmaking, there is the wobbly game of Chicken that Trimmel plays with the line between thoughtful drama and soapy primetime melodrama.
Enough cannot be said about the actors who contributed to making Family such a successful film. Deserving particular attention are Cherese Monet as pro-basketball player Kemp and Fadhia Carmelle Marcelin as the newly engaged Tonya. Tonya’s struggle to come out to her sister and reveal that her ”best friend” and roommate will soon become her wife quickly takes hold as one of Family‘s most engaging and well-realized storylines.
It should also be noted that Trimmel has done Exhale one better.
By drawing on emotions that are universal and recognizable to most all of us in the LGBT community, Trimmel’s Family speaks not only to the experiences of African-American LGBT people but to all of us. We can all feel the internal battles taking place. We can recognize the fear that takes hold before opening the closet door. We can perhaps even remember the days that followed our own coming out.
And that’s where Faith Trimmel truly succeeds. She has created a film that reminds us just how much we are all, truly, Family.