I can remember years ago looking at this ordinary house on an ordinary street on the East side of Indianapolis. It was a fairly nondescript house with a rainblow flag tucked rather quietly in a window, but it had nothing else to identify its purpose.
This house was the home of Indiana Youth Group, a fairly incredible non-profit organization based in Indianapolis that has served Indy's LGBT youth since 1987. It's a group that I admire greatly and it's a group that, until just a few years ago, remained rather anonymously tucked away in a community that, if we're being honest, wasn't quite ready for it.
While Indiana isn't exactly a bastion of tolerance and diversity, the city of Indianapolis has changed dramatically and over the years the Indiana Youth Group has gone from a quiet, fairly anonymous presence into a visible and outspoken advocate for Indiana's LGBT youth.
I thought about Indiana Youth Group quite often while watching the new Breaking Glass Pictures release Geography Club, a thought-provoking and genuinely entertaining film about a high school Geography Club that is really a secret club for LGBT teens to get together and discuss their problems and simply connect with one another.
There's 16-year-old Russell (Cameron Deane Stewart), a young man who is still going on dates with girls while nurturing a secret relationship with star quarterback Kevin (Justin Deeley), himself a young man who will do just about anything to keep his teammates from finding out his truth.
Min (Ally Maki) and Terese (Nikki Blonsky) tell everyone that they're just "best friends."
Then, there's Ike (Alex Newell). Ike can't seem to figure out who he is or who he wants to be.
The Geography Club is the place where these young folks can be who they are and where they are in life. However, as one might guess, eventually the secrets become harder to hide and our young people have to face the choice of revealing who they really are.
Nominated for a 2014 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Feature Film - Limited Release, Geography Club is a refreshingly wonderful film because it celebrates its young people, struggles and all, rather than forcing them to go through the stereotypical obstacles and struggles. While it doesn't minimize the challenge of being an LGBT youth, neither does it catastrophize it.
The film, currently in a limited theatrical release with indie distributor Breaking Glass Pictures, arrives on home video on March 11, 2014 and should be considered a "must see" for anyone who works with or cares about LGBT youth. As is nearly always true for Breaking Glass releases, the film also has quite the DVD packaging including a "Making of Geography Club" documentary, an audio commentary, and a bonus short film directed by Gary and Edmund Entin, who directed and wrote this film based upon a novel by Brent Hartinger.
Geography Club also picked up the Audience Award at L.A. Outfest 2013 with Meaghan Martin also being nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role.
The film, which occasionally has a bit of an 80's teen film vibe to it, is an entertaining film that also does an exceptional job of respecting the young people it portrays while also speaking to the power of community to heal and empower.
The film's ensemble cast is strong across the board or, it might be better said, they do a terrific job of portraying the kinds of stories and characters you expect in a teen flick with substance. There's nothing here that's particularly earth shattering for those who've already survived those often troubling teen years, but it's impossible to not admire a film that tells the truth and has some fun with it. For sure, some of the scenes are a bit challenging to watch such as a bullying scene that hurts because it's real. That said, Entin does a terrific job of balancing the material in a way that feels natural.
Geography Club does serve up a terrific performance by Meaghan Martin, while Cameron Deane Stewart and Justin Deeley also shine brightly. There's a few names in the cast that will be familiar to you such as Nikki Blonsky, from the cinematic version of Hairspray, and Ana Gasteyer, Scott Bakula and Alex Newell.
Matthew Irving's lensing is bright and inspired, while Lior Rosner's original music gives the film both spirit and emotional depth. Scott Enge's production design is also top notch.
Easily one of the best LGBT-themed films I've seen over the past year, Geography Club is an absolute winner.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic