"XXY" - An Intersexed Teens Battle for Acceptance


This is the powerfully moving story of Alex, played by Ines Efron, a teen looking for acceptance and belonging in an often cruel and unjust world. XXY is chromosome combination for a person having been born with both male and female reproductive organs. Previously know as hermaphrodites, but now use the more P.C. term intersexed. Any time a movie goes into this territory it has a chance of become exploitive and unrealistic. Director Lucia Puenzo’s is conscious of this and really hits home on many universal themes such as identity, parental love and belonging.

Alex is fifteen years old and has been living as a girl all of her life. She takes hormones and supplements to keep developing this way. Her parents are obviously very protective of her secret and have had to move around a lot to avoid the unrelentingly curious public. After yet another move to a small coastal town in Uruguay, Alex seems to have had enough and stops taking her meds. A more aggressive Alex starts to emerge and after a fight with her best friend (Vando, a boy) she falls into an abyss of sexual confusion and loss of identity.

Alex’s parents could have elected have a surgery at her birth to “correct” the situation, but her father Kraken refused, simply calling her “perfect”. Kraken is marine biologist by trade and a model of pure love and tolerance for Alex. Alex’s mother is hurt and disappointed that she has decided to stop trying to become a woman and fears what might become of her. They invite a surgeon and his family to their home for a few days to get a sort of second opinion. They have a teen son named Alvaro who is also trying to find his own way.

Alex asks Alvaro point blank if he will have sex with her, but he declines as he is dealing with some issues of his own. He suspects she is different but not to what extent. When Alex forces the issue and they finally get together, Alvaro is in for quite a surprise. Kraken accidentally witnesses part of this and his deepest fears start to surface. The fallout from this event is emotionally painful and embarrassing for all of them. When a group of teen boys hear a rumor about Alex and decide to find out for themselves we get one of the more heartbreaking scenes in the film. They hunt her down on the beach and hold her down while one of the boys pulls down her shorts. She is eventually saved by Vando and taken back home. Kraken is conflicted as to weather or not to got to the police as it could bring even more unwanted attention, so he leaves it up to Alex.

Alex and Alvaro’s relationship allows them to use each other in order to find out who they really are. Alvaro confirms that fact that he is gay and must deal with his intolerant father, which is another gut-wrenching scene. As Alvaro and his family get ready to leave, he confronts Alex about his feeling for whoever she decides to become. Alex is skeptical about his motives and asks if he wants “to see” and he leaves it up to her. She shows him and the film thankfully holds back the urge to give the audience a sort of genital money shot and leaves it to our imaginations. This film is beautiful, tragic, hopeful and so many other things. It is a must see and is available through Netflix Watch Instantly

More than "8MM" of Action with Nicolas Cage


Nicholas Cage always seems to have about a half dozen films released every year, with very few ever deserving a second look.  But for every 5 five cheesy action flicks he does, he’ll show us he can still act by doing a small engaging character drama.  The nephew of famed Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage delivered arguably his best performance in Leaving Las Vegas.  A role that earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1996. 

8MM was released in 1999 and has been a sort of lost gem that does deserve a second look.  A talented supporting cast of Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini & Katherine Keener kicks this film up a few notches.  Although the plot and subject matter might turn a few people off.  8MM refers to an old movie reel that is found in the safe of a recently deceased wealthy industrialist.  It’s a snuff film, where a person is killed on film after being possibly raped or tortured.  The elderly widow calls on Cage’s character of Tom to investigate the authenticity of the film.  Tom is a suburban family man with a wife (Keener) and a baby daughter.  He works as a private investigator and after viewing the disturbing film, decides to take the job.  Cage usually inhabits these crazy, eccentric characters, but with Tom, he grounds him with quiet professional dignity.  As he and a young adult bookstore employee Max California (Phoenix) dig deeper into the world of underground pornography and fetishism Tom will risk going down a dark path that some people never return.  There is a great quote from Max that goes “There are some things that you see, and you can't unsee them. Know what I mean?”

Tom and Max start investigating porn producer Eddie Poole (Gandolfini) and find that he is connected to the making of the snuff film.  Tom then visits the murdered girls mother and this is where the film really gets a lot of its heart.  The girl was Mary Ann Matthews; a real person and not just some statistic.  She is not a forgotten runaway, but a lost girl who drifted too far away from the people who loved her.  Tom wants to find the people responsible more for the girl’s mother, than for the job he is being paid for.  I won’t get into the ending or any spoilers, but it could be looked at a few different ways.  The plot and story in general needs to be taken as entertainment only.  It tries to be real and authentic, but it does take place in a “movie world” and not the “real world”.  If any of that makes sense.  As I write this Nic Cage is on a streak of terrible action movies so he is due for a winner and soon.

8MM was directed by Joel Schumacher, most known for a bunch of 90s action movies like Batman & Robin, A Time to Kill and The Client.  A straight to DVD sequel was released in 2005 and only uses the original title to con people into renting a shitty movie.