What a complete waste of time! This is not a gay movie. This is a movie about resisting being gay and succeeding.
The films runs more like a stage play than a movie, with long, long stretches of dialogue, mostly between Summer, an aging, mentally unstable aunt and her niece, Emily. Emily is in love with her cousin Griffith, tying him to the town, the house and the family. A stranger, Lee, arrives, makes friends with Griffith and tries to get him to leave with him—as a friend only.
Suddenly everyone is telling us is homoerotic longing, but we’ve seen no sign of this. Then they tell us it’s over. Well, we didn’t see any of it anyway!
I used fast-forward on this movie between interminable discussions about vegetables and heat and… blah. Sorry I fell asleep for a moment.
Don’t bother with this one.
The memory of love is enough to sustain a man through life? If you can believe that, then this is the film for you. I thought it was a coming out story set in the South. Well, it takes place in Pine Apple, Mississippi, so I was partly right.
It’s not a gay movie. The only sex is het. There’s one gay character, a drifter called Lee, and the protagonist, Griffith, might be but isn’t ready to admit to it The character who gets a satisfactory conclusion is Griffith’s cousin Emily.
If you’re into Southern gothic it’ll rock your boat. The film looks very pretty, but is terribly slow and ultimately empty. It just doesn’t go anywhere. The one thing I wanted and expected to happen just never did.
When the credits began to roll I couldn’t believe that was the end. A big let down.
The characters talk like real people don’t: overblown…overwrought…over the top.
Grffith is trapped by circumstances, partly external but largely down to confusion about his identity, the need to find where he belongs. He lives in a nice old house on a rural farm taking care of his crazy aunt Summer (Karen Black) an agoraphobic who’s afraid she’ll be returned to a psychiatric hospital. Cousin Emily is a titian-headed beauty with pale freckled skin. She’s in love with Griffith and they have sex among the roots of a gnarled tree, rough, needy and desperate. He uses her for sexual release nothing more.
One day a drifter, Lee, from Louisiana comes by looking to rent the old farm cottage. The obvious attraction between Lee and Griffith is played out over a long hot summer. It’s a great set-up.
The film is atmospheric and moody, with an evocative soundtrack, occasionally drowning out dialogue. You feel the humid heat of Mississippi. Summer stays in bed with books and fan, incessantly playing melancholic arias. No wonder she’s mad.
Lee’s arrival stirs everything up. Emily is jealous of his closeness to Griffith who comes alive in Lee’s company. Lee hangs around in hopes Griffith will be what he wants. He and Emily dance warily round each other, disapproving and jealous. Emily understands, even if Griffith doesn’t.
Griffith say he wants to leave Pineapple. He and Lee plan to go together, swearing a blood oath on it. Are they just friends or is it something more? There’s certainly sexual tension there. Griffith is handsome and Lee good-looking and muscled.
Everything explodes when Emily has it out with Griffith, forcing him to confront what’s going on with Lee. But he can’t accept it, too afraid of what it means.
They’re all tied to the past, locked in pain, unable to let go…family secrets, repressed emotions, hidden longings. Eventually the truth comes out.
Summer is creepy, almost malevolent. She loves Griffith but possessively, and makes sure he can’t leave. Griffith loves Lee. Emily gives him up and goes to new Orleans. Wise move.. Summer finally has what she wants: Griffith all to herself.
A kiss at the end proves Griffith loves Lee. But he’s found out he belongs on the red dirt of his land. Love doesn’t have to be about sex. It can be something deep and meaningful and life sustaining, even apart. The thing is I just don’t buy that. I was screaming at Griffith to go with Lee, or at least ask him to stay. So the film just didn’t work for me. Though I really tried hard to like it. Frustrating and terribly disappointing. The actor playing Griffith is a hunk, so it’s not a complete loss.
Buy Red Dirt (REGION 1) (NTSC) from Amazon here