“Becks” is a gay romance so old fashioned it feels like a period piece, a film from the earliest days of what came to be called “queer cinema.”
It’s about a folk singer falling in love with a married woman, family disapproval with just a hint of titillation. It’s a more polished “Lianna” (1983) or “Go Fish,” with a light enough touch to pass for queer cinema comfort food.
The title character (Broadway star Lena Hall) plays guitar with a band in the Big City, where she’s deeply involved with the band’s younger, exotic lead singer (Hayley Koyiko of “Jem and the Holograms”). Lucy, however, is playing the field.
The shock of this sends Becks into enough of a tailspin that she goes home, to the Midwestern town where she grew up, to her somewhat tolerant mom (Christine Lahti). There’s an old pal, Dave (Dan Fogler) running a bar, Perfectos.
“Dave was the first guy I ever slept with,” she jokes, “and the last.” He remembers how she was outed in high school, nicknamed class “vale-DYKE-torian.”
But hey, she could play at the bar, for tips, if she wants — “lesbian folk rock.” And maybe she could give guitar lessons on the side. The bar is how she meets Elyse (Mena Suvari of “American Beauty”), and guitar lessons are how she connects with her.
Elyse being married puts the romance in “It’s complicated” territory. It takes the more old-fashioned mom to register stern disapproval. Busting up a marriage rarely gets the buster chewed out in such films. The hoary cliche is that Becks is “awakening” Elyse’s true sexuality, and “Becks” only narrowly avoids that.
What the three credited screenwriters, two credited directors and the cast get across is a sense of lived-in lives, acceptance decades removed from social shunning and a kind of flippant riff on such gay romance cliches. “Lesbian Folk Rock?” Totally a thing, predating The Indigo Girls by decades. The romances here are melodramatic, as indeed romance can be.
Hall anchors the picture, at home on stage singing and playing, and a bit of an impulsive, arrested-development mess off it. Becks is 34 and making the mistakes of a 24 year-old, and Hall lets us see how infuriating it is to live that way and realize it.
She, the under-used Suvari and jovial Fogler, most recently of TV’s “The Goldbergs,” make “Becks,” comfort food familiar as it is, a likable movie with characters we don’t mind spending time with even if we know their mistakes long before they make them.
MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity
Cast: Lena Hall, Mena Suvari, Christine Lahti, Dan Fogler, Hayley Kiyoko
Credits:Written and directed by Elizabeth Rohrbaugh and Daniel Powell, additional writing by Rebecca Drysdale. A Blue Fox release.
Running time: 1:30