Out of the Celluloid Closet

“The Ladies” is a Must-See Short About Lesbian Life

It’s not so hard to imagine sleeping with your grandma’s best friend when the woman in question is Lisa Ann Walter. Dreamt up by director and writer Jill Gutowitz, the slice-of-life short The Ladies is very much concerned with the connection between lesbian hook-up culture and its relationship to space—or a lack thereof. In less than ten minutes, Gutowitz proposes and proves the theory that proximity amongst queer women can serve as quite the aphrodisiac. To put it simply, lesbians are horny too.

Starring Alexis G Zall as Emma, The Ladies is paced by the tantalizing unpredictability of lesbian chemistry in a tight setting. Opposite of Zall—and presumably underneath her at times, is Lisa Ann Walter as Blanche, or the best friend of Emma’s grandmother. Though Blanche welcomes Emma into the scene with a flirtatious greeting of: “who’s ready to get wet and wild,” the nature of their relationship isn’t obvious at first. Were it not for the funeral of Grandma Pearl’s husband, Blanche and Emma would have never operated in the same space. Distinctly separated by age and location, the two women find themselves on common ground solely because of their individual relationships with Pearl. And as lesbians so often do when in closed quarters, Blanche and Emma begin to wonder: what if? The drama of the morning after then unfolds in real time as both the viewer and the surrounding characters work to connect the dots. 

The Ladies is very much concerned with the connection between lesbian hook-up culture and its relationship to space—or a lack thereof.

Under Gutowitz’s artful direction, a casual miscommunication about flavored water works itself into a frenzy of activity around the kitchen table. Knowing glances are exchanged, chemistry is sparked, and the consequences of Emma’s night of action arrive uninvited. As fate would have it, Emma and Blanche documented their hook-up with lots of pictures, one of which Blanche accidentally sends to her best friend: Emma’s grandma. 

When the suspense can build no more, it spills, tipped over by the hand of Emma’s nosy cousin Josh. “You’re supposed to be here for grandma!” Josh exclaims after coincidentally checking his grandma’s phone and seeing the compromising photo for himself. Josh drops his jaw in shock, only picking it back up to call Emma a “selfish horny liar.” The warm and familiar chaos of a menial family feud ensues; limbs fly haphazardly, in a wild dance of attack and defense. Wielding her body like a battering ram, Emma knocks the phone out of Josh’s grasp and right into Blanche’s open hands. 

In the end, The Ladies is not a film about love or best friendship; it is a tale of getting laid when least expected.

The mayhem screeches to a full stop. Emma’s pupils dart back and forth from Blanche to Grandma Pearl. Regardless of where Blanche’s allegiance falls, there can be no winners; either the secret is revealed, or it remains hidden to fester. 

In the end, The Ladies is not a film about love or best friendship; it is a tale of getting laid when least expected. As a realistically complicated and captivating piece of queer cinema, The Ladies actively reimagines the often-caricatured experiences of lesbians in film. Purposely forgotten is the age-old cinematic motif of unfulfilled yearning: in its place exists unabashed attraction and impulsive sex. Trading off tragedy for pleasure, Gutowitz’s directorial debut dares the viewer to see lesbians as they’ve never been seen in cinema before: as the hopelessly instinctive and intellectually complex human beings they are. ♦

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