BELOW HER MOUTH (2016): Review by Giorgi Plys-Garzotto

Below Her Mouth is a lazily plotted but consistently erotic lesbian film that, while poorly written, features some great performances and excellent camerawork. I was unable to find reference to director April Mullen’s sexual orientation, but I would place a large bet that she is not LGBT due to her total failure to portray a relationship between women. (GPG: 1.5/5)

Review by FF2 Contributor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto

Director April Mullen has been widely praised for her choice to use an all-female crew for Below Her Mouth, and in terms of technical skill, this film is well made. However, it has deep flaws—namely, its cardboard characters and reproduction of toxic heterosexual narratives that belie Ms. Mullen’s claims of progressiveness. For all her proclamations in interviews that the story is showing female sexuality through a “female lens,” I am unsatisfied and vaguely sickened by the portrayal of women-loving-women I saw in Below Her Mouth.

“Dallas” (Erika Linder) is an extremely masculine woman who has a reputation as a “player;” her characterization echoes stereotypes about men being promiscuous and emotionally detached. The first scene of the film features Dallas breaking up with her current girlfriend, who is much more feminine in presentation. Dallas has become bored with her girlfriend, and states that she “doesn’t want to be playing house right now.” The girlfriend is portrayed as clingy and emotional, a ball and chain. At a party shortly after, Dallas meets “Jasmine” (Natalie Krill), another extremely feminine woman who is engaged to a man and believes herself to be straight. Dallas proceeds to follow Jasmine around the party despite her attempts to break off the conversation, and eventually kisses her without permission on the fire escape outside. This is all portrayed as romantic, Dallas’s disregard for consent being taken as a sign of their chemistry. Bleh.

Dallas continues pursuing Jasmine in a way that would be indisputably creepy for all but the most diehard Twilight fans. Dallas is working a construction job by Jasmine’s house, and she harrasses Jasmine as she walks to her car. Oh, did I mention that the morning before the party, Dallas and her male coworkers catcalled Jasmine? Jasmine repeatedly asks Dallas to stop and leave her alone, but Dallas, and the camera, know that she secretly wants it, even though she has said nothing at all to encourage Dallas. The narrative of a man persistently chasing a woman despite her protests and finally being rewarded when the woman relents and “gives it up” is one of the most toxic narratives in our culture, and one that feminists have rightly criticized. Imagine my shock and horror at seeing that same narrative being transposed onto lesbians with no alteration or critique attached, and the director then expecting praise for how truthfully she has portrayed the lesbian experience and female sexuality! 0/10, would not watch again. ….except maybe for the steamy scenes.

© Giorgi Plys-Garzotto (5/1/17) FF2 Media

Q: Does Below Her Mouth pass the Bechdel test?

Yes! Most scenes are conversations between women, about other women!

Top photo: Dallas and Jasmine kissing.

Center photo: Dallas and Jasmine about to kiss.

Bottom photo: Dallas and Jasmine at a bar.

Photo credit: Serendipity Point Films.

Tags: FF2 Media

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Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
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Contributing Editor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto is a journalist and copywriter living in Brooklyn. She's been thrilled to step into an editing role at FF2 after writing as a reviewer for years, so you may see her writing at the bottom of intern's posts as well as in her own pieces! She especially loves writing about queer issues, period pieces, and the technical aspects of films. Some of her favorite FF2 pieces she's written are her review of The Game Changers, her feature on Black Christmas, and her interview with the founders of the Athena Film Festival! You can also find more of her work on her website!
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