For Laurel

The text of this tribute was written and edited by Fablu, Egirl1999, and Miznoone.

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In January 2003, freelance screenwriter and online movie columnist Debra McCampbell wrote an article for AfterEllen.com entitled, “No More “Laurel Who?” Why I Can’t Wait for The L Word to Begin.” We will be quoting from McCampbell’s article generously throughout this tribute, because McCampbell captured so much of what Laurel’s fans feel about her as an actress.

She begins by writing about a little movie that some of us first discovered Laurel Holloman through, and which many more of us have since seen on DVD and cable television.

“It’s staggering to me that “The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love” is not available on DVD yet. How is that fair? How is it anything but criminal? By all accounts, this charming, upbeat film’s no-budget shoot was a heartfelt collaboration. I’m sure that if they saved anything, the bonus material alone would be worth the purchase price Why haven’t more movies like this one been made since its release in 1995? Also criminal.

I never forget an actor who creates an indelible character. I have a vast store of favorites of every stripe stored away in the back of my mind. It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a kid, this Rainman quirk of mine, remembering great performers. I didn’t know then that there was a reason for it. Aspiring movie writers love movie actors. It’s a thing.

Back in 1995, Randy Dean was one of those characters. Laurel Holloman’s gritty, hopelessly adorable baby butch in 2 Girls felt so real that I was pretty much convinced it was a self-portrait. Kind of like Robin Johnson’s stunningly intense Nicky in Times Square. Laurel Holloman was so good as Randy that I thought she had to be playing herself. Over the years, I slowly learned that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

~ Debra McCampbell

Much to the delight of McCampbell and many of Laurel’s fans, Two Girls was released on DVD not long after she wrote those words.

For many who saw this film in 1995, when it was still a bit scary to go into a movie theater to watch a gay-themed film, or to the many who have seen it since it was released on DVD, The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love remains a sweet and offbeat love letter to first love told from the very personal point of view of its cute baby butch, completely charming, unpretentious, but socially awkward heroine Randy Dean. Randy finds herself in love for the first time while still in high school, working as a gas station attendant, and living with a gay aunt and her girlfriend after having been dumped by her religious zealot of a mother.

The film and the two lead characters, Randy and the object of her affection, Evie Roy (Nicole Ari Parker), were easy to relate to because many of us can and still do identify very closely with the circumstances of these girls’ lives. Even the title of the film was fun and uplifting, and just took for granted that the true love story was about two girls. Compared to most of the lesbian themed films produced at that point, with the exception of the landmark film Desert Hearts, lesbian films tended to be heavy-handed, poorly written, directed, and acted tomes like Claire of the Moon, Bar Girls and countless other unsatisfying but sincere attempts at lesbian storytelling and representation.

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We love many things about this film.

We loved the performances of Laurel and Nicole Ari Parker, and especially the breakout performance of Laurel, who makes us believe she’s Randy from the top of her boyish haircut to the tip of her worn sneakers. This couldn’t be someone playing a role. We were surely looking at someone playing her charming, adorable and gawky self. Holloman even cut her luxuriously long, silky red mane of hair for the role and “butched” it up just perfectly for the overall effect and illusion, transforming herself into a beloved lesbian character in the process.

Aside from the almost matter-of-factness of its heroines’ sexuality, we also loved the film’s themes: of the transformative nature of love, and the idea that family values are not the sole property of heterosexuals.

Randy is from the wrong side of the tracks, loves rock and roll, is not popular in school, is careless about her schoolwork, daydreams in class while doodling mock pictures of her teachers and her schoolmates that have already labeled her a “dyke” because of the way she “looks”. But she is deeply loved and protected by her lesbian aunt and her extended family, which includes a down-on-her-luck ex-girlfriend of the aunt who she takes in because she’s family.

Evie is from a well-heeled African-American household, loves school and books, is one of the popular girls and lives in a huge house with her divorced mom, who is also very protective of Evie.

What sets this film apart is not just its depiction of young lesbians in love or the matter-of-fact approach to the interracial aspect and class differences between the girls, but in the way the film doesn’t define the relationship solely in terms of sexuality. It’s the idea that whom we love can transform us into better people. That whom we love has the potential of bringing out the best of who we are. That is what Randy and Evie do for each other.

Randy introduces Evie to the concept of being who you are no matter the consequences, and Evie introduces Randy to the delights of reading poetry and listening to classical music and they do both while luxuriating in the fields surrounding their neighborhoods.

Evie acquaints Randy with Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” and they both revel in the seemingly limitless possibilities, sensuality, and the ‘free to be you and me’ aspect of Whitman’s classic work. Randy is especially taken with Whitman’s sensual and soulful poem “I Sing the Body Electric,” which celebrates both the physical and the metaphysical as a marriage between the body and the soul – not only in terms of sexual love, but in terms of the love of a parent for a child and the love of the child for the parent, which we noted was a strong component of this film.

Laurel’s gift for comedy radiates in so many scenes, as in the one where she’s laying on her bed, alone in her room, and we see her goofily enthralled while reading aloud from the “I Sing The Body Electric” poem from Whitman’s book (knowing she is on the verge of wanting more with Evie). She betrays her youth by guiltily laughing at the sensuality of the passage and works herself up into a frenzy, repeating that one line over and over, “I Sing The Body Electric” … and she sings herself off of the bed. This is only one example of the naturalness and ease with which Holloman gets into the skin of the character she’s playing.

When Randy and Evie eventually consummate their love, we come to find out that Randy, who when we are introduced to her was macking on some married woman in the garage, is just as much a virgin as Evie is.

Although the film does have its flaws – one of them being its fairy-tale ending – the film overcomes them mostly because of how the story is told, what it conveys, and most of all the fine performances of Laurel and Nicole. We cannot praise this film, or Laurel’s performance as Randy Dean, enough.

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The film was a labor of love for everyone involved, to make this film and get it distributed. Laurel and Nicole performed their roles without getting paid, but the film launched the careers of both women in independent film. As McCampbell said, Holloman created a character that felt so real it was difficult to believe that she wasn’t playing herself until over the years, one slowly began to understand that “nothing could be further from the truth.”

When people tuned into watch the first season of The L Word and saw Tina Kennard for the first time, we love the fact that few realized that they were watching the same woman who played blue-collar tomboy Randy Dean; Mark Wahlberg’s lusty lover in Boogie Nights; Janet McTeer’s coffee-enema-aficionado friend Laurie in Tumbleweeds; the goofy but beautifully charming poet, Samantha, in Loving Jezebel; or the fierce vampire hunter, Justine Cooper, in Joss Whedon’s Angel. Laurel has a way of disappearing into a role she plays so completely, it seems like she is playing herself.

Next: Justine

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