Love and humor mix in campy B-movie form
Writer and director Madeline Olnek’s feature film debut, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, screening Saturday at the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, is a quirky, original comedy where an insecure woman named Jane falls in love for the first time. It just so happens the object of her affection is from outer space.
Jane (Lisa Haas, in her first feature role) has a hard time talking to women. She spends most of her time behind the counter at a stationary store, dealing with the same senile customer day in and day out, and otherwise wading her way through the mundanities of her life. She is too afraid to even flirt with women she finds attractive, let alone ask for a number.
One night, she dreams a spaceship swings by to drop a note asking her out. Her therapist dismisses the dream as pure fantasy, but Jane is convinced otherwise. It wasn’t a dream at all; it actually happened.
Meanwhile, on the planet Zotz, “big feelings” are destroying the ozone layer, and the biggest feelers — a trio of lesbians named Zoinx (Susan Ziegler), Zylar (Jackie Monahan) and Barr (Cynthia Kaplan) — are sent to Earth to have their hearts broken, destroying their ability to love. All goes well, until Zoinx falls for Jane and endangers the mission.
To say that Codependent’s budget was shoestring would be an understatement, but Olnek uses this to her advantage, creating a campy atmosphere meant to recall ‘50s B-films (right down to the ethereal theremin during the opening titles). The film isn’t mired in camp, however, and the tone of Codependent is more akin to the indie flicks that defined Generation X in the ’90s.
The only real misstep in the film is a (admittedly, occasionally funny) subplot involving two “agents” (Dennis Davis and Alex Karpovsky), Men In Black-style feds tracking the aliens. But the agents simply spend most of their time conversing Clerks-style, all to set up a fairly obvious gag, which often feels like little more than the kind of escalating gay panic humor you usually find in sitcoms or, well, Kevin Smith movies.
The performances and direction lack subtlety, but not to the film’s overall detriment, and throughout the film feels fresh and real. As usual, sci-fi, even the campiest variety, proves an excellent lens through which to view the world and our human relationships. But at Codependent’s heart, of course, is a love story, one that’s touching, earnest and rings true to audience members of all genders and orientations.
Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same screens Saturday at 9 p.m. at the UWM Union Theatre. Tickets are $9, $7 for students, seniors and UWM campus community members. For more information on this or the other films in the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, visit the festival’s website.