Posts Tagged ‘Dustin Lance Black’

Dustin Lance Black and his mother, Anne

“MAMA’S BOY” My rating: A-  (HBO Max)

102 minutes | No MPAA rating

Dustin Lance Black won an Oscar for writing the screenplay for “Milk,” was crucial to the HBO hit “Big Love,” and most recently created the HULU miniseries “Under the Banner of Heaven,”about a murder in Mormon country.

His professional life is impressive.

But his personal saga, as chronicled in the documentary “Mama’s Boy,” is even more flabbergasting.  Indeed, one could easily see Black’s family chronicle becoming yet another knockout miniseries.

No kidding folks, at least three times I had to stop the movie because it had put me into emotional overdrive. This is powerful, inspiring stuff.

Laurent Bouzereau’s film begins with Black’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Academy Awards.  He spoke not about the movies, but about being gay, about the impact of the life of queer icon Harvey Milk, and he issued a promise that in the near future the full rights of homosexuals would be recognized by the federal government.

Then Black, our onscreen narrator, takes us on the 60-year journey of his mother Anne. She was born to sharecroppers in rural Louisiana, crippled by polio as a child (she underwent several ghastly surgeries and spent the rest of her life in leg braces and on crutches), and converted to Mormonism as a young woman.

She married a Mormon man who clearly wasn’t ready for the responsibility…he abandoned her with and their three boys (she’d been advised not to get pregnant but wasn’t about to let medical realities stifle her dreams). 

To keep the family afloat the church dropped off monthly envelopes of cash (a act of charity Black recalls fondly); then arranged for Anne to marry a divorced Mormon who, unbeknownst to the family, had tired to kill his first wife (a deliberate omission Black cannot forgive).

This monster physically abused his wife and her sons; Anne divorced him while he was on a job overseas, then worked her way up through the civil service,  launching a career as a laboratory technician. She also married for a third time…we meet this fellow and he’s pretty wonderful.

Anne was by any one’s reckoning an amazingly brave, resourceful woman.

While all this is happening young Dustin Lance (“Lancer” to his mother) was suppressing his own sexual identity. He realized early on that girls didn’t do it for him, but the Mormon Church left little doubt about what happens to sexual sinners.

Moreover, the one person whose approval he most wanted — his mother Anne —was fiercely conservative.

“Mama’s Boy” throws a wide net, dealing not only with Dustin Lance’s early life in Hollywood and his reluctant coming out as a gay man, but also pulling into the story his two brothers (one of whom dealt with his own tragedy).

Ultimately, “Mama’s Boy” is a tale of healing.  On a rare visit to  her son in L.A. Anne attended a party filled with Lancer’s gay friends. Something inside her clicked.  So much so that when she accompanied her boy to his big Oscar night, she wore on her dress a white ribbon signifying support for gay marriage.

One thing I didn’t realize about Black…in the wake of the passage of California’s Prop 8, which banned gay marriage,  he suspended his movie career for several years to work on undoing  that law.  He wrote a play, “8,” to dramatize the issue; it was performed more than 400 times around the country.

|Robert W. Butler

Read Full Post »

“J. EDGAR” My rating: B (Opening wide on Nov. 11)

150 nminutes | MPAA rating: R

Clint Eastwood is the reason we have the new film “J. Edgar.”

It’s not like the moviegoing masses were begging for a biopic about longtime FBI director/pathologic paranoic J. Edgar Hoover. How many of today’s mall rats can even identify him?

The subject matter isn’t “sexy.” His story isn’t familiar to anyone under the age of 60. There are no obvious marketing hooks.

Not even the presence of one-time teen heartthrob Leonardo “Titanic” DiCaprio in the title role (an amazing performance that I, for one, didn’t see coming) can make this production anything but a money pit.

And yet here “J. Edgar” is, all because Clint Eastwood found Hoover’s story fascinating and has the track record, personal loyalties and financial clout to make movies nobody wants to see…or rather movies they think they don’t want to see.


Read Full Post »