Movie Review by Alice Castle
Starring: Natasha Lyonne, Cathy Moriarty, Clea DuVall, RuPaul
Director: Jamie Babbit
Picture Barbie’s dream home – lurid tones of turquoise and salmon pink patios. Shiny plastic wipe-down surfaces and solid sumptuous sofas. A place where boys wear blue and help daddy in the garage and girls stay in the kitchen with Mummy. Where anything distasteful can be flushed down the waste disposal unit.
This is “True Directions” – a rehab clinic for homosexuals run by Cruella De Vil-look-alike Mary (Cathy Moriarty) and the setting for director Jamie Babbit’s comedy of sexual disorientation BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER. Megan (Natasha Lyonne – THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS and Woody Allen’s daughter in EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU) is a bouncy, blonde mid-western seventeen year old. She’s the most enthusiastic cheerleader on the team. Champion of the cheer, and queen of the cartwheel she may be, but Megan’s parents are getting increasingly worried about her. She’s been trying to convert them to tofu, has pictures of Melissa Etheridge on her wall, Georgia O’Keefe embroidered flower cushions and a large aversion to tongue sarnies with Jared-the-jock her boyfriend. Oh, and to top it all her friends think she hugs them too much. Well it’s a foregone conclusion – horror of horrors – she must be gay!
Megan’s parents trick her into attending a homosexual rehabilitation centre, 3 months of reprogramming for their little “poodle” by Cruella and her assistant the ex-homosexual Mike (RuPaul – out of drag!). Here boys and girls re-discover their gender after admitting their homosexuality in a 5 step rehab system. Megan isn’t sure what the root of her homosexuality is, in fact she didn’t even know she was one, but the other young attendees have found theirs. “I was born in France” says one, “My mother got married in pants” says another. Mary their instructor says it’s imperative they learn that “straight is great” before it’s too late because once they get to college they’ll be stuffed full of liberal arts college brain-washing and be corrupted by the revolting homosexual lifestyle.
In the process of re-education Megan makes friends with Graham, a rich but daddy-doesn’t-love-me type heiress played by Clea DuVall. Graham knows she is gay but realises that she’s never going to get family approval or her trust fund if she’s openly lesbian. She’s realised she’s going to have to hide it or at least not get caught. As Megan struggles with her sexuality she finds herself falling in love with Graham and when she finds out the feeling is mutual she’s ready to take tremendous risks for her new passion.
BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER is amusing and very fun to watch but it probably doesn’t do much to get rid of homosexual stereotypes – limp wrists, and bullish dykes galore. It certainly can’t be accused of being too righteous or heavy and the blossoming love affair is very touching and beautifully acted by Lyonne and DuVall). What’s scary is that in the US there are over 200 of these “sexual reprogramming” centres, though they’re probably not as gorgeously decorated as Babbit’s “True Directions”!