In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.
What is Forever My Girl?
It is just about the straightest, whitest movie you’ll see this year.
Forever My Girl is about a broken engagement between Southern gal Josie and her suddenly famous fiancé, Liam, who makes it big in country music just as they’re set to be married. Eight years later, she’s raising his daughter, of whom he has no idea, and he’s a drunken mess on the road. But he’s never stopped thinking about her he’s even kept his cell phone from back then, which has one message from Josie that he listens to every day. (Someone should tell him he can transfer that recording to a newer phone.) When his high school best friend dies, he finds himself back in his hometown, trying to atone for all his past sins.
In addition to this Wonder Bread loaf of a story, we also have a religious element: This being the small Louisiana town of St. Augustine, everyone’s very Jesus-y, and Liam’s father is the local pastor. In short, this is straight-down-the-line Middle American entertainment. But, there is one reason compelling enough to see it.
Who’s in it?
Jessica Rothe, who we last discussed in this column when we saw Happy Death Day, plays Josie. Now, this is just about the most standard, blank role a young actress could be handed sweet, scared of love, adored by her small town and yet Rothe brings just the right amount of bite to the part. She’s believable in her fear of letting Liam back into her life, particularly involving himself with their daughter. Her anger with him feels honest and well-calibrated; she’s still got great love for him, but she’s still so confused about his choice to break their engagement that she has to close off her heart to him.
Less interesting in his performance is Alex Roe as Liam. There are whole story beats where we’re supposed to be inferring something from his expression, but he just goes blank. That said, he looks like a cross of Sam Hunt and Zac Efron, so the casting department basically did its job.
The biggest name of the group is John Benjamin Hickey, who plays Liam’s father. He is fine, but deserves better than this.
Why should I see it?
I mean, I can’t honestly recommend it, but Rothe is a really surprising talent, and I have a feeling she’s the next in the line of Jennifer Lawrence-Emma Stone-Brie Larson-esque stars. So if you wanna say you saw her back in the day, here’s your shot. (You could also just rent Happy Death Day.)
But how gay is it?
I’m racking my brain to come up with a movie I’ve seen that’s less gay than this, and I’m at a loss. Honestly, these people needed some gays in their lives. Josie spends eight years after Liam breaks their engagement working and spending a bizarre amount of time with her overly defensive brother (who I actually thought might be gay until he gets randomly paired with Liam’s publicist Doris at the end). If she had a gay friend, he would’ve gotten her out on the town, or babysat when she wanted to go out on a date.
Meanwhile, Liam desperately needs a gay friend to talk some sense into him. Stop the drinking, Liam! Upgrade your phone! You can get the voicemail off of it! If anything, Forever My Girl is an indictment of straight people’s decision-making abilities.
Is there any visual gag that made you laugh so hard, the people in your Thursday night screening who were clearly invested in the love story glared at you?
Let’s just say there’s an extended shot of an absurdly large bear (teddy, sadly, not the gay kind of bear) that gave me church giggles.
Is there anything notable at all about Forever My Girl?
Well, yeah, actually. Forever My Girl was written and directed by a woman, Bethany Ashton Wolf, and adapted from Heidi McLaughlin’s original novel. Despite the romantic drama genre being primarily targeted toward women, they remain the minority when it comes to who is writing and directing those stories. So that’s kind of cool.
As to whether the female director makes a difference honestly, I can’t say. There’s a frustrating amount of focus on Liam, despite Josie being the more interesting character with the better performer in the role. I don’t know who to blame for that, as I haven’t read McLaughlin’s book and don’t know the details of Wolf’s adaptation process. But there’s a version of this movie out there that’s more Josie’s story, and I selfishly wish Wolf had found her way to that story.
How desperate are you for January to end so good movies hit theaters again?
You have no idea.
Forever My Girl is in theaters now.