Yo ho ho: A gender-bending we will go

By Donald V. Calamia

REVIEW:

'Girl King'

Written, produced and directed by Ileana Pietrobruno. Released on DVD Oct. 10 by Ariztical Entertainment. Running time: 80 minutes. $29.95. Not rated.

In the old days, we're told in the movie "Girl King," men were men and women were women. However, that's not necessarily the case in this recently released DVD from Ariztical Entertainment.

Given the hoopla surrounding Johnny Depp's recent cinematic escapades on the high seas, it's not surprising that LGBT filmmakers would some day jump in the water with their own swashbuckling adventures. After all, wouldn't it be fun to watch a merry band of lesbians terrorize the seven seas? The possibilities are endless!

But that's not what happens in "Girl King." For what writer, producer and director Ileana Pietrobruno presents isn't a lesbian pirate movie per se, but a gender-bending exercise in filmmaking that doesn't seem to know what it truly wants to be - nor what market it wants to reach.

"Girl King," with themes and plot threads ripped from The Complete Plays of William Shakespeare, opens with Captain Candy (Raven Courtney) bringing her booty to the Queen (Victoria Deschanel): a young, attractive couple she's captured, Butch (Chrystal Donbrath-Zinga) and Claudia (Michael-Ann Connor).

Butch, the mystical queen divines, is a "baby butch" - that is, a virgin top - and that's exactly what she needs to send on a quest for her missing "koilos" - or as you've probably guessed, her clitoris. It was stolen years earlier during a passionate moment with the King (Joyce Pate), and without it, the world of butch and femme, tops and bottoms has been thrown entirely out of whack. Worse, she can no longer have an orgasm.

So the Captain trains Butch to be, well, butch - and afterwards, the two sail off to find the king and recapture the purloined goods. Along the way they're joined by a third pirate, Easy, who looks an awful lot like a certain femme that Butch left behind - yet neither recognizes her behind some rather slim facial hair.

Nor does Captain Candy realize that the rather effeminate sailor she becomes attracted to is really a man (Jonathan Sutton).

And the king? Well, get ready for yet another head-scratching plot twist - with biblical overtones, yet.

The result is one heck of a convoluted storyline - and not just because of the mismatched pronouns everyone freely tosses about.

Rather, the confusion falls upon the shoulders of Pietrobruno, who can't decide what type of movie she's making. One moment she seems to be paying homage to old-fashioned pirate flicks - but with a gender-bending twist - complete with grainy archival footage and title cards (which, if you think about it, is rather silly and useless in a talking picture); the next finds us in a gothic-style romance wrapped in pirate themes. (She missed that by a mile, too, since there's nothing remotely romantic about this story, nor is the lovemaking hot or sexy.) And Shakespeare this ain't: The drama is hokey and the comedy - what there is of it - is accidental.

It's not even successful as a satire.

Then there's her message: What is Pietrobruno trying to tell us with her movie? Damned if I can figure it out. (It looks to me like she's fascinated with masculinity, codpieces and female tops and bottoms, but how exactly those are of great interest to most lesbians, I don't know.) And there's little in "Girl King" to keep gay men watching.

So what are we left with? How about a movie that will likely fail to find an audience!

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