May 2nd was the final night for NewFest‘s retrospective series Queering the Canon: Rom Coms. I’m sad that it’s over but grateful to have been given the chance to write about the event! The final film screened was Julia Dyer’s 1996 lesbian film Late Bloomers. Before this series, I had never heard of this movie, whereas the other titles were all familiar to me. Late Bloomers is a sweet film about a small town and the two women who find love in new places.
Late Bloomers follows two women – Dinah and Carly – and their developing relationship in a small town. The two women both work at the same high school; Dinah is a math teacher and basketball coach and Carly is a secretary. Their lives are very different aside from their place of work. Carly is married to a man and has kids while Dinah lives alone.
The two of them become tentative friends and quickly realize their attraction to one another. Tensions in their small, religious town quickly grow as their relationship is shoved into the light. In a heartwarming turn of events, the town grows to accept and embrace the love these two women have.
“Late bloomers” is a phrase I’ve associated a lot with lesbians who come out later in their lives. Often they’re already married to a man and have children. Late Bloomers is a charming little film that proves you’re never too late to learn how to play basketball or fall in love. Speaking of basketball, I’ve never even played it naked at night before watching this movie.
Religion and family play important roles in Dinah and Carly’s town. Parents in their community are concerned that these two lesbians are going to somehow corrupt their children, leading to discussions of the Bible that I’m sure gay people in religious communities have already heard. Dyer points out the hypocrisies of using the Bible to discriminate against queer people and demonstrates how queer couples and families often have to assimilate into straight spaces to be accepted by them.
The film ends with Dinah and Carly’s wedding. In true rom-com fashion, the town and Carly’s family all show up to support them and their relationship. Movies like this make me happy with how far we’ve come, even if there’s still work to be done. Nothing’s perfect, but Late Bloomers proves that with some love and acceptance we’ll get pretty close.
interview with julia dyer
I am super grateful to NewFest for allowing me to ask director Julia Dyer some questions about her film Late Bloomers!
What was the filmmaking process for Late Bloomers?
JD: “We shot on Super 16mm film, on a microbudget in Dallas TX in 1994. There was enormous support and enthusiasm for the project in both the artistic and LGBTQ communities. Almost all of the actors and crew were local, as was the financing. It was a grueling shoot but also great fun and really brought the community together.”
How was it affected by your own experiences? Do you have any inspirations from other queer artists or filmmakers/movements?
JD: “My sister Gretchen Dyer wrote the script—partly inspired by events that happened in our high school in the 70s, and more immediately by the beautiful backyard wedding of a female couple we were close to in Austin.
In terms of other films, Gretchen and I were both moved by Longtime Companion and The Wedding Banquet, and similarly wanted to make a film that might sneak past people’s defenses and go straight to their hearts.”
How was your film affected by the intersections of gender, sexuality, and religion?
JD: “Probably best answered by paraphrasing a scene from the movie. At a PTA meeting, a woman argues that Carly and Dinah’s love is an abomination—it says so in the Bible, in the Book of Leviticus. A gay parent retorts, “Leviticus actually says that man lying with man is an abomination. It doesn’t say anything about women.” The Christian lady is stumped for a minute, then replies: “Well…man means woman.”
Are you working on any new projects? Has your storytelling changed over the years?
JD: “Yes, I’m developing two television series. One of them is the wartime love story of a gay couple in the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I’m still interested in stories with themes of love, politics and justice—and still interested in creating fun and complex characters that give for actors a chance to do fun and complex work.”