THIS YEAR I’ve reviewed half a dozen of the ten or so films that I saw in June at the Provincetown International Film Festival—not officially an LGBT film festival, but hey, it’s P’town, so a fair number G&LR-worthy films were on hand. Here’s the fourth of six:
Directed by Rhys Ernst
Transpeople are familiar with the problem of whether to reveal or conceal their transgender status in various contexts. But what if the situation were reversed, and someone who was cisgender had to keep up the appearance of being trans? Meet Adam, a straight high school student who’s staying with his genderqueer sister in New York City for the summer and tags along to parties for gender nonconformists of all kinds. Soon enough he falls for a young woman who assumes he’s transgender. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Adam doesn’t disabuse her of this misimpression. So, when they decide to start dating, he’s forced to keep up the ruse—even if it means foregoing the very real possibility of losing his virginity.
Having committed this act of deception—or cowardice—Adam becomes a less than sympathetic character whom we’re kind of stuck with for the rest of the film. Perhaps he’s best seen as an entrée into a world of gender fluidity and non-binarism that keeps Adam, and the rest of us, guessing as to the participants’ former or current gender orientation. Indeed labels are conspicuously avoided, though one couple is referred to as “boy Casey and girl Casey.” Adam is a comedy, and it risks ridiculing this “shook-up world,” as The Kinks called it centuries ago (i.e., 1970), whose members often seem to be enacting a studied weirdness that flirts with self-parody. But director Rhys Ernst, who is transgender, avoids crossing this line, having found a way, albeit a somewhat gimmicky way, to present this largely hidden world to a wider audience.