Another Melbourne Queer Film Festival screening and with a title like that you know it’s going to be a raunchy lesbian film. There were two queues snaking down the stairs at ACMI and I could tell at a glance that the all male one was not the one I needed. The first of two sold out sessions, my expectations were high. Sigh. Below Her Mouth is everything that Lovesong isn’t.
Erika Linder channels James Dean as Dallas, a self-possessed roofer who breaks up with her girlfriend with little emotion or regret. At a bar she encounters Jasmine (Natalie Krill), an affluent editor who is planning a wedding with her fiancé Rile (Sebastian Pigott). It is lust at first sight and Dallas comes on as strong as a creepy guy, hitting on Jasmine who makes it clear she wants to be left alone. But of course, in line with the stereotype that women just need to be persuaded, Jasmine is intrigued and before long the two have hooked up for lots of graphic sex.
The sex is the film’s only redeeming grace – that and Linder’s brooding, boyish style; I wish I looked that good in a suit. And a tool belt. The dialogue is hammy – “I’ve never done anything like this before.” – “I really like this house.” – “Why are you never like that with me?” – and the acting from the two leads is woefully wooden. Linder’s facial expressions run the gamut from frowning to not frowning. I couldn’t help but think of how much better Jena Malone and Riley Keough would have been in these roles. How much more we might have understood and believed the characters.
The music is clumsy, the resolution is predictable and Dallas’s coercive behaviour is a bit icky. Not great but it shows that a sex scene in the synopsis will pull in the crowds.
Bechdel test – pass