Coming Out in Film
Coming out is a rite of passage for the GLBT community. Beyond self-acceptance, it is about sharing yourself with family members, friends, and even co-workers. Coming out as a teen is more common and perhaps easier than it was a generation ago, but it remains a political statement at any age.
Films have long depicted coming out stories, and while some members of the LGBT community who tire of seeing coming out stories, they are important and often give folks courage to take that big step. Here is a list of titles to check out to celebrate National Coming Out Day.
Back in 1982 Hollywood made "Making Love," a soapy drama about Zach (Michael Ontkean), a married doctor who is forced out of the closet when he begins an affair with Bart (Harry Hamlin). The film remains a touchstone for a generation despite mixed reviews and mediocre box office because it was one of the few efforts Hollywood made at courting a queer audience. Hollywood took a comic approach to the topic in 1997 with "In & Out," a popular and broad film about a schoolteacher (Kevin Kline) grappling with his sexual identity after being inadvertently outed by a former student’s award acceptance speech.
American independent film handled coming out with much more sensitivity. "Edge of Seventeen" (1998) is a coming out classic, and based on writer Todd Stephens’s semiautobiographical experiences. The film features a winning performance by Chris Stafford as Stephen’s alter ego and sexy support from Andersen Gabrych as the young man who seduces him. While "Edge of Seventeen" has a sincere (and de rigueur) coming out scene with his mother (Stephanie McVay), Stephens mocked it in his 2006 comedy, "Another Gay Movie." In this spoof, the flamboyant Nico (Jonah Blechman) is looking to lose his anal virginity, but has yet to tell his mother ("Edge of Seventeen"’s McVay) that he is gay.
One of the best American lesbian coming out films is the hilarious and affecting "Kissing Jessica Stein" (2001), in which the title character (co-writer Jennifer Westfeldt) decides to start dating women because she is fed up with men. When she connects with Helen (co-writer Heather Jurgensen) the two women have to determine who they want to love and what they want out of their relationship. Another comedy, "But I’m a Cheerleader" (1999), depicts a would-be lesbian (Natasha Lyonne) being sent off to a rehabilitation camp called "True Directions" to "cure" her of her orientation. Of course, she meets a handful of LGBT characters who express themselves and find self-acceptance.
Foreign films also portray coming out stories with considerable grace. From Canada, "C.R.A.Z.Y." (2005) is an outstanding film about Zachary (Marc-André Grondin) coming of age in the 1970s in a tight-knit family in Montreal. He loves David Bowie and develops strong feelings for guys, much to his disapproving father’s chagrin. Imaginatively filmed by director Jean-Marc Vallée, "C.R.A.Z.Y." is one of the best coming out films ever. On the lighter side, "Mambo Italiano" (2003) has lovers Angelo (Luke Kirby) and Nino (Peter Miller) coming out to their parents with fear and mixed but amusing results.
Two British films about teenagers that have long been embraced by audiences are "Beautiful Thing" (1996), about two male teenage neighbors in a London towerblock who fall in love, and "Get Real" (1998), about Steven (Ben Silverstone) who is crushed on the prep school jock (Brad Gorton), who happens to reciprocate.
The landmark German film "Taxi Zum Klo" (1980), depicts writer/director/star Frank Ripploh outing himself in his classroom by coming to school in drag after a night of debauchery. "Summer Storm" (2004) was a comedy-drama about same-sex attraction as the closeted Tobi (Robert Stadlober) and his best friend Achim (Kostka Ullman) compete in a rowing competition against the Queerstrokes, a gay crew team.