by Rich Moreland, November 2013
Girlfriends Films’ Homecoming is a well-written and superbly acted story that speaks to the heart of an issue that dominates our culture today: the American family and how we perceive it.
* * * * *
Homecoming tells the story of a dysfunctional household that transitions from the façade of a “perfect family” into an honest coming together of what they really are.
The oldest daughter of Tony (Steven St. Croix) and Cora (Zoe Holloway) is getting married. Gloria (Casey Calvert) brings home her beau (Michael Vegas) for the expected approval of her parents. Trouble is that gazillionaire Bradley is rude, arrogant, and insensitive. To complicate matters, Gloria is unsure of her sexuality though she is quite certain she doesn’t love Bradley. Admitting to her true feelings is the issue because pleasing her parents is Gloria’s mission.
Homecoming functions on different levels. First, there is Tony’s story. He’s nouveau riche with a secret—an illegitimate daughter. His life is further complicated by a wife who has given up on their marriage. Next is Bitty (Jenna J. Ross) the youngest daughter who has no interest in her voyeur husband, nerdy psychologist Ron (Chris Slater). Bitty’s preferences lean toward girls and she reunites with an old high school friend, Norma (Raven Rockette) in a highly charged sexual encounter of the type Girlfriends’ fans have come to expect. Then there is Jim (Ralph Long), the real anchor in the family and symbolic of all their dysfunctions. He’s an adopted son and a cross-dressing military reject who is fairly useless in his father’s eyes. Because he is not of their linage, Jim is a breath of fresh air and the only family member who refuses to deceive himself.
The sex scenes are built around the narrative. Each is a reflection of the players in it and the situations of their lives. The first involves Bradley, Gloria, and her friend (Presley Hart). Bradley is brutish, dragging his fiancée into the bedroom and throwing her between Presley’s legs. Gloria gets a “taste” of same sex love while Bradley satisfies himself, nailing his wife-to-be as if she were a dog. No matter, Gloria is too busy exploring her friend to care. The scene appears forced and awkward to the viewer but it’s designed that way. Gloria is unsure of what she is finding and is hesitant but apparently eager. If the lovers were fluid and content, the rest of the narrative would be unnecessary.
The second scene involves a girl/girl between Bitty and Norma. It’s a throwback to their teen years, they’ve done this before. Bitty tells Norma to sneak over and “throw rocks at my window.” Very high school, but that’s the point. The sex is top notch because the viewer’s fantasy drifts back to teenagers in a clandestine, surreptitious lust-fest. The girls are carnally authentic (Norma reminds Bitty she’s so wild) and, unlike a lot of lesbian oriented film nowadays, there are no sex toys to distract the viewer.
Fantasy Time Warp
Director B. Skow pushes envelopes in this story. He is helped considerably by some quality acting and the effective use of symbols scattered throughout the narrative that reinforce his message.
Cora talks of pushing the kids to win trophies and how they never really enjoyed their accomplishments. Her family must be like a prom queen’s complexion on the night of the big dance, no doubts and no blemishes. B. Skow contemptuously reminds us that this little brood is second place at best. Twice in the film’s opening are second place trophies and medallions spotted by the camera. In a moving emotional performance toward the film’s end, Cora confronts the family’s impending destruction, a fragile union Gloria was obliged to save with her material marriage. “We’re supposed to be the perfect family,” she tells Gloria with total exasperation. Later when truth can no longer be avoided, Cora laments to her husband, “We’re actors in a poorly written play with curtains I’m afraid to close.”
What is the watchword in any twelve step program? Admission is the first move toward recovery.
The family lives in a fantasy time warp, as B. Skow subtly reveals. Pay close attention to the music, it offers guideposts throughout the drama. Are we really, after all, watching a television show?
Twice in the story, the first time in the sensational sex scene between Gloria and her brother, and the second in the final one between mom and dad, there is a muted sentinel with a blank stare: an old TV with rabbit ears. This relic is a reminder of bygone days of “perfect” families whose triumphs were always guaranteed, but covered in a thin veil of cultural fraud. Did not the Cleavers of Mayfield and the Cunninghams of Milwaukee, fictitiously rooted in the 1950s and 1960s, shape our values?
But what did “perfect” mean in a time when those who were different were silent?
B. Skow nails this point with Jim and Gloria. Casey Calvert and Ralph Long are the heroes of this drama and both turn in credible acting performances. Ralph is endearing while Casey is a diamond in the rough. She may be known for her hard-hitting on-screen sex, but her range of expression carries the story at crucial moments. Their sex is the best of the film, by the way. He’s in a blonde wig so Casey can fantasize and find her way through a morass of sexual confusion. As for the sex itself, Casey is an oral and anal princess, handling the sometimes dicey ATM as a true professional.
The last sexual encounter brings the film full circle. Tony admits to his affair with a local waitress and Cora forgives. Their passion for each other is how this family began. The viewer can only imagine these two at work on each other years ago creating the microscopic cell that would become Gloria, their hoped for savior.
Now their mature sexuality captures the screen, a sweaty, energizing vanilla that balances the reminder of Biddy and Norma’s illicit teenaged exploration. In between we have the fetish notion of Jim and Gloria while the first scene puts the stupid frat boy stamp on Bradley’s garish pounding of Gloria who is destined for a revelation of her own. Like families, sex comes in all varieties.
Homecoming is not a family gathering, but a family rebirth with a raucous and joyous ending. Real emotions have eluded this band of relatives for years; the sex in the film is forthright and reminds us that a good dose of self-examination is necessary to maintain happiness however we define it. Our sexual kaleidoscope is waiting to be explored and its’ time we closed the curtain on our culture’s poorly written play of sexual limitations and dishonesty. Homecoming’s cast of characters and their director are willing to show us the way.
* * * * *
From the Performer’s View
Not often do I get a chance to talk about a film with the leading performer in it. However, Casey Calvert was willing to reflect on some of my thoughts about Homecoming. Here’s a bit of our conversation.
I am interested if the sex was scripted.
“The sex scenes weren’t scripted at all,” Casey says. “They were shot in the standard way Girlfriends likes their sex scenes, with just two people going for it.”
She goes on to talk about B. Skow and how she enjoys working for him because “of the way he shoots sex.” “He likes natural, genuine sex,” Casey says, and “runs three cameras so it’s easy to always be open to one of them.”
I remember Dan O’Connell talking about his philosophy of having only three crew people to minimize disruptions. I ask Casey about interruptions during her scenes. B. Skow “stays quiet” unless a problem arises, she says. There was only one break during her scene with Ralph Long and that was related to the hot lights and his wig!
I’m curious about the first sex scene with Michael Vegas and Presley Hart. Michael as Bradley is a brute who forces his wife-to-be’s mouth into her friend’s crotch. Casey’s role is built on Gloria’s hesitancy about her possible love for girls. She is uncertain, making the sex awkward. Of all the scenes in the film, this one is the most artistically constructed because it is vital to the story.
Casey mentions that Michael did exactly what B. Skow wanted, “just fuck and pop as quickly as possible.” He did his job really well, she says. Casey comments that she doesn’t personally know Presley Hart that well and that contributed positively to the scene. Gloria’s ambiguity about her sexual preferences was “what I was trying for,” Casey says.
For viewers who only watch a porn movie for the sex, nuances like those in this scene are sadly lost. Casey remembers an online viewer who commented that he didn’t understand why she works with girls when she doesn’t seem to be turned on by them. His remark was disappointing, Casey says. My advice to that viewer is to watch the scene again and perceive it from the perspective of an artistic statement that moves the the film forward.
Finally Casey compliments Ralph Long for doing a spot on job in the film. She adds he was also “a great PA [production assistant].” A man of many talents in a film of talented people, I might add.
I’m not one to give out ratings or stars for movies. But I highly recommend Homecoming. It’s dramatically refreshing because it is not average porn fare.