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Movie Review

A Poignant, Powerful 'Relative'

September 20, 1996|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Don't worry about being able to sort out the seven women who constitute the scintillating ensemble of Sharon Pollack's "Everything Relative." By the time this heart-tugging comedy-drama is over, you're deeply involved in their lives and care what happens to them.

Recalling "The Return of the Secaucus Seven" rather than the more expensive but more superficial "The Big Chill," "Everything Relative" is one of the best lesbian films yet. You don't have to be gay or even female to see yourself in these women on the cusp of middle age, with all the accomplishments and disappointments that most people have experienced by the time they're hitting 40.

When Katie (Stacey Nelkin) and Sarah (Carol Schneider) hold a bris for the baby Katie conceived via artificial insemination, they invite their friends from college with whom they later worked in a political theater troupe. (Harvey Fierstein plays the presiding rabbi.) The celebration develops into a reunion at the couple's place in the country.

What sets this gathering of six lesbians and one straight woman apart from other such occasions is that most of the participants have come alone. But the fact that so many of the women are unattached allows for the possibilities of old friends--and lovers--finding each other.

For blond, short-haired Gina (Gabriella Messina), the situation is indeed bittersweet, for it brings her face to face with the woman, Luce (Andrea Weber), who walked out on her eight years earlier. Luce, a Latina, had fled in a panic about being in a lesbian affair--her parents had, in fact, disowned her. But by now Luce as well as Gina have had their "hearts broken into a million pieces."

They are the film's key couple, the two individuals in the most pain. Yet just as Gina has never stopped loving Luce, Maria (Olivia Negron), a buffed-out, socially awkward stuntwoman, is clinging to the memory of her first love, killed in a car accident 15 years earlier. Meanwhile, the resilient, self-confident Josie (Ellen McLaughlin) tries to get Maria to get in touch with herself, and Victoria (Monica Bell), married and straight, reveals how she has been longing to become pregnant.

Although a real movie and not stagy, "Everything Relative" certainly does unfold like a well-made play that concludes tidily. There are several love scenes of breathtaking sensuality, and there is a stunning moment when Sarah unexpectedly encounters a business acquaintance on the street and finds herself introducing Katie as her friend rather than as her lover. All the performances are first-rate, and if Messina, Weber and Negron stand out it's because their roles are the juiciest. "Everything Relative" packs a wallop.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: The film has two scenes of intense lovemaking, some strong language, adult themes.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

'Everything Relative'

Ellen McLaughlin: Josie

Olivia Negron: Maria

Stacey Nelkin: Katie

Monica Bell: Victoria

Andrea Weber: Luce

Gabriella Messina: Gina

Carol Schneider: Sarah

A Tara Releasing and Wolfe Video presentation in association with Big Sister Productions. Writer-director-producer Sharon Pollack. Executive producer Irene Sullivan. Cinematographer Zakaela Rachel Othmer. Editor Meredith Paige. Music Frank London. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Music Hall, 9036 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 274-6869.

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