“I knew from the beginning that this was going to have a conventional narrative script and that I’d shoot it in a conventional narrative style and that it would be accessible to a mainstream audience,” director Maria Maggenti says about her film, The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.
“It never even occurred to me that this was going to be a gay girl,” says Laurel Hollomon about her decision to audition for the part of Randy.
Nicole Parker, the actress who plays Evie, agrees. “It’s about somebody loving someone else.”
Never mind that the somebody and someone are both teen-age girls. Never mind that one somebody is black and the other is white. It’s a teen romance. And while the romantic story line of Two Girls is fairly conventional, in its own gentle way the film manages to break quite a few conventions.
The three women were in town last month for the film’s premiere at Filmfest DC. Though Maggenti is a product of the District, she has no plans to return—unless there’s a march or a major protest. “I come to D.C. to get arrested,” she says.
The dedication at the end of Two Girls reads “For my first girlfriend, may our relationship finally rest in peace.” Maggenti admits without hesitation that the film is autobiographical. But not entirely: Unlike the film’s Evie, Maggenti’s mother never literally caught her in bed with a girl.
She modeled Evie on herself, but cast a black actress in the role because she finds movies with all white people “really annoying.”
“I very definitely wanted to create a black female character that was not a celluloid stereotype. Evie is smart, funny, popular, upper-middle-class—all these things are true in real life, we just don’t see examples of them on the screen.”
The households the girls live in are very different in terms of class, race, and sexuality, but both are without men. Evie’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her mom in a large house in the rich part of town. Randy shares a working-class existence with her lesbian aunt and her aunt’s current lover and ex-girlfriend.
Two Girls‘ inception challenges The Player-induced ideas about how movies are made.
Maggenti wrote the script in eight days. She had given her original script, in which the girl had already gotten the girl, to some film reps. They liked it, but wanted to know how the girls had met in the first place. Maggenti told them she’d get them that script, only to find out they were leaving town next week. Perfectly conventional.
Once her script was approved, a good friend gave her an interest-free, two-year loan to start filming. The film was shot in 21 days. By October 1994, she had closed the deal with Fine Line Pictures. Three months later, the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was well received.
The entire crew as well as most of the cast was female, which created an ideal working environment, say Hollomon and Parker. Two Girls was the first major feature film for both twentysomething actresses. With Maggenti, the actresses did a lot of preparation to develop their characters and work out how they would interact.
Because Parker had never done a love scene and Hollomon’s one experience had been negative, Maggenti worked to make the two leads feel comfortable. When director and actresses met to choreograph the scene, Parker and Hollomon played a practical joke on Maggenti. When she arrived, they were sitting on the couch casual as can be, “buck naked and smoking cigarettes,” says Maggenti.
“We found the humor in a situation that could have been really awkward,” says Hollomon.
“It was such a different experience working with women. It felt natural and so safe,” Parker recalls, a baby-blue mini ‘fro replacing the long, thick braids she wore for the film.
Maggenti put a lot of thought into how the love scene would be perceived. She even invited her actresses into the editing room to approve the final cut. “It was a real challenge. That’s standard porn fare—two chicks. I wanted to express the innocence of the two characters, while being careful not to exoticize the black female.”
Maggenti notes the irony that a film like Two Girls would emerge at this time, when politically the country is experiencing a shift toward the right. “It represents a real change in culture and society, for women to be able to say, “This is a valid story.’ And this is especially true for the lesbian and gay community.”
At the same time, Maggenti feels that the present political situation doesn’t necessarily represent our society. “I’m as American as Newt Gingrich,” she asserts.
Who’s to decide what is conventional and what should be conventional? As Randy says in the film, “It’s weird when you tell the story of your life. But when you’re in it, it just seems as normal as anything.”