It all begins as a simple love story between two women and dissolves into one gay man using their love story to push for gay marriage in New Jersey.
Trigger Warning(s): Homophobia, Vomiting (Sounds), and Depiction of Someone Going Through Cancer
Characters & Story (with Commentary)
Is 2002 and one of the top detectives in Seaside Heights is an officer named Laurel (Julianne Moore). A woman who looks straight out of a 70s action movie, but rather than being the dame or femme fatale, she is the cop who closes cases and whoops some ass. On the other side of things, you’ll find Stacie (Ellen Page). Stacie, for the most part, is pretty much just Ellen Page. Just with her being a bit more cute and awkward than usual. As for her occupation, she is an auto mechanic.
Together they are quite the cute couple and while Laurel keeps their relationship in the closet, for she doesn’t want being a lesbian and a woman to hold back her career, they both seem quite happy. That is, until tragedy strikes and Laurel learns she has stage 4 lung cancer. Then, to add insult to injury, upon petitioning for her spousal benefits to go to Stacie, who she had formed a domestic partnership with, she learns the Ocean County Freeholders refuses to recognize her relationship. Leading to the appearance of Steve Goldstein (Steve Carell), the man who ushers in the downward spiral and takes a beautiful love story, turned tragic, into a bullet in his gun for his fight for marriage equality.
A Love Story Enviable Whether It Was True or Fiction: This is one of Page’s first films in which she has a romantic relationship with a woman, and between that authenticity of her being a lesbian woman, to her and Moore’s acting talents, I’d argue what they have is cuter than anything seen in Carol. For while we don’t see a huge amount of dates, there are no sex scenes, and Laurel is a bit closeted due to her job, there is something about the way Page looks at her, and how they interact in a non-sexual function, that makes them seem like the embodiment of a real couple. Also, unlike Carol, Laurel doesn’t seem like some sort of predator and Stacie isn’t some naïve and vulnerable girl ripe and ready to be turned out.
Cop Case May Not Have Been A Strong Subplot, But We Got Our Answers: When the movie starts, Laurel is knee deep in a case dealing with drugs, among other things, and unfortunately a year jump happens. With this year jump, the case gets put on the backburner, till damn near the end of the movie, but I was glad they gave some sort of closure to it.
Steve Carell and Political Theater: It has been said a few times that when it comes to LGBT rights, usually there is a privileged, cis, white gay man using other people’s struggles to regain the privilege he lost due to being gay. In this movie, you see it in action. Steve Carrell, through Steve, takes over the movie and not in a good way. His character doing “Political Theater” in order to gain support for Laurel and Stacie I honestly think is the reason this movie isn’t part of major award show nominations. For the character just rips away all the beauty of Laurel and Stacie’s relationship and replaces it with politics. Not even in such a way which makes it seem the film is still about the relationship and marriage equality in New Jersey, but straight up about this gay white man not having the privilege he would have if he was straight and using Laurel and Stacie as strictly a means to an ends. Not giving a damn how uncomfortable they are with his tactics or wording. For, in the end, it is all about his needs, his wants, and if the byproduct is Laurel getting what she wants, hey good for her.
Final Thought(s): TV Viewing
Steve pretty much takes this movie down multiple notches, which sucks for before he came on the scene this was an awesome film. We got to see Laurel be a bad ass, see her fall in love with a great girl, talk about the issues women have on the force, and how being out would make things harder, and witness Stacie deal with that. But then the spousal benefits issue comes up and while things remained good for a while, then came Steve.
But, despite Steve, there is still a good love story here and it being based off a true one makes it quite nicer. Hence the TV Viewing label for while it has one major flaw of a character, everything else is quite beautiful.