But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

Director Jamie Babbit’s bubbly, incisive satire of gay conversion camps (which are, in reality, physical, emotional, psychological and sexual torture) is impressive for many different reasons, but the most notable one is that it manages to acknowledge the aggressive oppression of those types of places and making its primary narrative revolve around it. It’s satire, so of course it’s being sent up and exaggerated for comedic purposes, but the intent is clear: This is an abominable practice that should be outlawed and its practitioners should be held accountable. It’s a neat hat trick that Babbit manages to move around, and she’s helped a great deal by one hell of a leading cast: Natasha Lyonne is downright perfect in the lead role, able to communicate her character’s confusion at acknowledging her sexuality in defiance of a casually deceptive family unit. Additionally, Clea DuVall is similarly luminant, bringing her considerable screen presence, rock star charisma and sincerity to a role that could easily have been rather rote and cliched in the hands of a lesser performer, and her chemistry with Lyonne is entirely believable. The movie’s scant 85 minutes pack a surprising punch despite the movie’s glossy look and its jubilantly juvenile humor, and unexpectedly registers as a tender love story, a coming-(out)-of-age tale and a deceptively vicious take-down of its satirical target.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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