Sunday, June 18, 2006

50 Ways of Saying Fabulous

Rural New Zealand in July 1975 (mid-winter, Down Under). Billy, a chubby, effeminate boy, lives near his cousin Lou, a fierce tomboy; they like to create their own scenarios for their favorite TV space opera, Adventures in Space. Of course, they add a twist: Billy plays Lana, the science bimbo, while Lou plays Brad, the athletic hero commander. Lou even gives Billy a ponytail to pin on his hat to enhance the illusion. Along come Roy, the new kid from the city who is an instant outcast in their small country school, and Jamie, the hunky new ranchhand who infatuates both Billy and Lou.

50 Ways shows a glimpse of a paradise in which the children are able to live out their gender-role fantasies with humour and grace, but of course the "real world" intrudes with brutal determination. Billy must repeatedly choose between his true feelings and his futile desire to fit in with his schoolmates, betraying the truth that he is stuck in a conformist, narrow-minded, xenophobic hell on earth. As beautiful as the New Zealand countryside is, I'm glad I didn't grow up there.

50 Ways of Saying Fabulous, dir. Stewart Main, 2005 New Zealand, 90 min., based on the novel by Graeme Aitken

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