THE LADIES, 8min., USA, Drama/Comedy
Directed by Jill Gutowtiz
Emma scrambles to hide an affair with her grandma's best friend from her grieving grandma and nosy cousin.
In 2016, when my grandpa died, I had also been recently dumped by my first girlfriend, laid off, and kicked out of my apartment. I was at my lowest low — but my grandma was lower. As the person with the absolute least going on in the family, and the most available, I flew to Florida to stay with my grieving grandma in her Jewish senior living community. While I was there, my grandma and I cared for and rejuvenated each other. Every morning, we’d head over to the community pool and aerobically walk with “the ladies” — her closest friends — and gossip, laugh, and heal. Suffice to say, I became rapidly enmeshed in her community and its drama. It wasn’t long before I was conspiratorially whispering, “you know Barbara and Sid don’t sleep in the same bed anymore” to my grandma’s friends. That’s when I started writing THE LADIES; It was my comedic escape from my grandma’s, and my own grief.
A few years later, I met producers Roger Mancusi and Katie Schiller, who helped sculpt THE LADIES into its best self. As a culture writer and author of GIRLS CAN KISS NOW, a book of essays about monumental lesbian moments in film and TV as they relate to my own life, I’ve spent the majority of my career analyzing and dissecting queer female narratives. With this film, I wanted to tell the kind of story I’ve always wanted to see — as a fan, consumer, and culture critic — one that’s melancholic, sexy, and which centers queer women. That said, THE LADIES is uproarious and hot, and allows queer women, especially older queer women like Blanche (60s) — who typically aren’t portrayed as such — to be sexy and horny and complicated. As a director, I sought to bring to life the intergenerational stories of these women and their hearts and libidos.
I wanted — more than anything — to tell this story with empathy. My favorite movies are the ones that make you cackle, then suddenly burst into tears, like THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, or JUNO. Set in bright, sunny Florida, THE LADIES carries an undercurrent of emotional darkness, but visually treats the characters with warmth and softness, even while they’re misbehaving, grieving, and lashing out.
Lately, it feels like many of the queer narratives I see on-screen feel disingenuous, as if a queer character is thrown into a heterosexual story and expected to either assimilate or teach their peers a lesson. I want to see more stories that feel genuine, laugh-out-loud funny, heartfelt, unique, and which center queer women. THE LADIES is, in some ways, a timeless and relatable family story, but with queer people who feel multidimensional and whole, and whose characters aren’t solely rooted in their sexuality. These are the kinds of queer stories I want to see, ones like the dramedy films I was raised on, but which centers people from my community. Queer stories shouldn’t just have to be “important” to be told — they should also be human, chaotic, and distinct. As a filmmaker, I feel that this type of story is just as “important” to tell.