Lesbians and Lessons, by Chase Beck
My immediate reaction to Ladybeard is to tear it apart and ridicule it for its amateurish dialogue, poor acting, bad writing, and disappointing direction. However, such an approach might lead everyone who reads this review to dismiss the film entirely. If you demand a cinematic experience that is purely for entertainment, you might want to look elsewhere. If, however, your approach to cinema allows room for education (particularly about what not to do in filmmaking) Ladybeard can serve as an invaluable resource.
Also, it would be irresponsible of me not to take into account the accomplishments of those involved in making Ladybeard. The film is promoted as an independent romantic comedy. It was shot entirely in Huntington and Charleston, West Virginia by West Virginians, starring West Virginians. Now, I am in no way saying that we should hold West Virginian filmmakers to a different standard, or even that we should hold independent films to a different standard than a studio film. What I am saying is that I’ve never made a film. If I tried it would probably be ten times worse than Ladybeard and nobody would ever see it because I would never finish it.
Directed and written by David Smith, Ladybeard is about a comedian (Andy) who has been posing as his lesbian best friend’s boyfriend to her parents for over a year. Confused yet? Don’t worry, the movie spells it out clearly, multiple times. When his best friend (Michelle) and her girlfriend, Hayden, get engaged, Andy finds himself conflicted. He’s worried that since he no longer has an excuse to spend time with her, he’s going to be pushed out of her life. Michelle is on the verge of coming out to her parents and is worried about how they will take the news. Andy decides that he wants to remain Michelle’s fake boyfriend, her Ladybeard as it were. With the help of a drifter named Amy, Andy hatches a plan to scare Michelle back into the closet.
And hilarious high jinks ensue. Well, not really. About 95% of the film was so unintentionally cringe-worthy as to render it nearly unwatchable.
I’d like to offer some constructive criticism if I may. I think David Smith needs a little more practice in the “Show, Don’t Tell” aspect of screenwriting. The director of photography (I’m assuming this means “camera operator” on a production this small), Chase Henderson, would have benefited from sticking to the “Rule of Thirds” as well as the use of more “Master” and “Over-The-Shoulder” shots. To be fair, it looked like they were filming in some cramped locations that might have prevented this. Here’s a tip: get a carpenter, rent a warehouse, build some sets (well, that’s actually three tips rolled into one). On the positive side, they managed to successfully focus the camera most of the time.
I applaud Apartment 2B Productions for their efforts and accomplishments. I’m not suggesting that anybody involved in this film should get out of the film industry entirely. That would just be mean of me. However, a large proportion of the actors would greatly benefit from acting lessons. I laughed an inappropriate amount during a scene where Andy and Amy were giving direction to auditioning actors. Most of the actors did get better as the film went on…most of them. In my opinion everyone involved in this film just needs more practice. Better equipment, competent writers, and decent actors would not have hurt either.
Despite all of this I did laugh during an uncharacteristically (for this film) well-written diner scene and I even became emotionally connected with the characters for a whole five-seconds. That’s not nearly enough for a movie with a run-time of 97 minutes but it is enough to convince me that these guys show promise and while I’d be (understandably) reluctant to sit through their next film, I look forward to seeing them hone their craft.