"Connie and Carla" Review
Nia Vardalos, Toni Collette, David Duchovny
"Connie and Carla" is the latest script offered by Nia Vardalos, who previously brought us the independent smash hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
"Connie and Carla" tries hard to capitalize on that same sort of charm and camaraderie, but in a vastly different setting. Of course, Vardalos stars here along with Toni Collette as Connie & Carla. The two are Midwestern airport lounge singers who witness a murder, hit the road, end up in Los Angeles (How they were dumb enough to think there was no "theatre" in Los Angeles is a bit beyond me) and disguise themselves as drag queen lounge singers who become quite the hit along the way.
Yes, the film has hints of everything from "Sister Act" to "Some Like It Hot." Unfortunately, the film often tries too hard to capture the feeling of "Greek Wedding" and ends up over-exerting itself for a feel-good tone. Vardalos, in particular, seems less relaxed and more self-aware this time around. While Collette and Vardalos had a nice, comic chemistry it often felt forced.
Additionally, some of the camerawork seemed a bit out of focus at times...I saw a couple of the Spike Lee "slow pan" moves...obvious and inappropriate. While the film also held gays/lesbians in self-esteem, nonetheless, some of the behaviors were a bit over-the-top in terms of caricature. Quite simply, not every gay male...not even every drag queen is the preening, prissy femme. It's an irritating caricature that bordered on cartoonish.
Where this film worked was in a couple "hit over the head" messages: 1) The act of "Connie and Carla" is very pro self-esteem and positive body image. They openly make statements against botox, against worrying about wrinkles and weight and aging...while it was a bit too blunt, it was still nice to see in a film. Additionally, caricature issue aside this film did a wonderful job in portraying gays/lesbians as human beings with human feelings and loving, whole human beings.While it's becoming more common in films, it was really nice to see it here.
Perhaps the best part of this film is in a sub-story of the main plot. David Duchovny plays the brother of one of the drag queens. The film spends quite a bit of time exploring their reuniting after many years apart. These scenes are, at times, awkward and tender and funny and heartbreaking. Duchovny and Stephen Spinella handle these scenes with dignity and class...bravo.
The music here is a joy...of course, it features many of the "stereotypical" gay tunes...(i.e, Liza Minnelli, Debbie Reynolds (who actually makes a cameo) and a bunch of Broadway show tunes.
In terms of the script, there were holes galore...too many inconsistencies and obvious ways in which the two women would eventually be caught. So, while I appreciated the character development I fault the storylines and unrealistic situations.
The film is directed by Michael Lembeck...as previously stated, too often he leans towards the cartoonish/caricature approach to this film but clearly he also got somewhat in touch with the humanity of this film.
A slightly above average film made infinitely better thanks to a touching performance by David Duchovny and Stephen Spinella and the general likeability of Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette. For a somewhat campy good time, I say go ahead and check out "Connie and Carla."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic